Saturday, April 23, 2011

Homily for Easter Sunday . . . and some flowers

Easter Sunday
24 April 2011

Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Ps 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Col 3:1-4
Jn 20:1-9

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.

The words of the psalm began circumnavigating the globe here in Sydney hours ago.  The celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection is underway here in Australia as the East Coast of the United States is still preparing for the exquisite liturgy of the Easter Vigil that will begin in about two more hours.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. 

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is a concise summary of Jesus’ life beginning with His baptism and ending with His death on the cross. And then we hear the commission to the apostles. The commission to preach.  To preach the message of our salvation.  That message of salvation is the reason we are to rejoice and be glad.  Jesus is the one set apart. Those who believe in him have  forgiveness of sins through His name.

As St. Paul so memorably wrote in the Letter to the Romans:  “God showed his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.  Jesus, fully Divine and fully human, Son of God and Son of Mary, died for our sins.  We are sinners.  But, we are sinners loved by God.  We are sinners redeemed by Jesus’ passion and death in a redemption made manifest in His resurrection from the dead.  What more can we say than? . . . .

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. 

Imagine the scene described in John’s Gospel.  In the early morning dark Mary Magdalene made her way to the tomb.  Was it cold or warm?  How good was the lamp that lit her way?  Did she stumble?  What did the road feel like under her feet?  Imagine the heaviness in her limbs; the heaviness familiar to any one of us who has grieved; who has gone to the cemetery the day after burying a loved one with that leaden-limbed feeling that makes each step an effort. 

Then imagine the fear; the rush of adrenaline, as she saw that the heavy stone had been moved.  She didn’t even look into the tomb but ran for Peter and the others. 

Immediately, the apostles were sprinting for the tomb.  What did they feel?  Anger?  Fear?  Disbelief?  Probably all of the above as well as other feelings.  The same kind of feelings we experience daily.  John got to the tomb first; but fear kept him from entering.  He knelt, looked and stopped.  Peter, who only a couple of days earlier thrice denied knowing Jesus, entered followed by John.   They saw the burial cloths rolled up. What did they feel?  What did they think?  Unlike our situation today, knowing  that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead,  joy was probably not one of the things they felt facing the empty tomb. 

The last line of this reading is in parentheses but it gives a crucial explanation to the apostles’ state of mind.  “Remember, as yet they did not understand the Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”   They did not yet understand. They did not REALLY understand, who this Jesus, with whom they had cast their lot for the past years, they did not understand who He really was.

That parenthetical comment explains the nature of our relationship with Jesus.  Despite Jesus’ action in our lives we don’t usually understand.  We don’t really get it.  We oftentimes fail to understand how great a gift Jesus was to us; how great the gift he gave to us.  The measure of that lack of understanding is found in how often we fail to give Him thanks for that gift.  How rarely we acknowledge that Jesus died for our sins; the sins of each of us, so that we need not fear the death of the body.  Ever.   

Just four months ago we were singing the Gloria in Excelsis Deo of Christmas Eve.  Today that Gloria is changed to Alleluia, He is Risen!  Alleluia.  Alleluia.

This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad. 

The flower photos were taken at Sevenhill during various times of the retreat including a few during five straight days of rain.  

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