Homily for Easter Sunday
(Scripture for today's Mass)
Audio for homily
(I'd really encourage you to listen to the audio rather than just reading the text. There are elements in audio which are departures from my text and at the end of this busy week, I just don't have to revise the text below to reflect that.)
When I was a child, back in the 1950’s,
I palled around with Lewis,
a boy who lived just a few doors away from me.
On Sunday mornings,
Lewis and his family went to the Maple Street Congregational Church
while my family went to St. Mary’s.
And we went to Sunday School in our respective houses of worship.
I remember Lewis asking me once if I had a bible
- and I told him I didn’t.
So he asked me how I learned about my religion without a bible
and I told him, “Oh! I have a catechism.”
And I remember asking my parents about this and their telling me
that Catholic people didn’t read the bible
because of the danger that they might misunderstand what they read.
Looking back now, it seems that Catholics used to think
that ignorance of the Word of God
was somehow preferable to possibly misunderstanding it.
Well, we’ve come a long way since then - thank God.
Catholics are now encouraged to own bibles - and to read them!
But you know there is something dangerous
about reading the scriptures.
While it’s good to read passages from the bible
and all they remind us of in telling the story of our salvation,
there’s the real danger in doing so -
the danger that we might come to think of the scriptures
as a history book, a divinely inspired account of things
that happened thousands of years ago.
There’s a danger in telling the story of Jesus rising from the dead
and that’s the danger of thinking that the resurrection
is a chapter in the history of world religions - which it is -
that’s why we’re here:
because Jesus did rise from the dead.
But it’s a dangerous thing if hearing that story
doesn’t help us believe -and experience- Jesus rising from the dead -
We’re here this morning not only because Jesus rose from the dead:
but also because he rises from the dead,
because he is risen in our midst.
If we don’t “get” this -
then we’ve pretty much missed the whole point.
One of our biggest problems is that we so often look for Jesus
in the wrong places.
We ask, we expect Jesus to rescue us from our problems and worries,
we beg him to rush in like a first-responder
and extricate us from our troubles.
We fail to see that the risen Jesus isn’t outside our difficulties,
waiting for some alarm to go off --
he’s right smack dab in the middle of our troubles
and he’s keener on meeting us there
than he is on pulling us to greener pastures.
And that’s because his first desire is simply to be with us
and for us to be with him:
in good times and in bad, in hope and in despair, in joy and in sorrow,
along whatever rocky, bumpy road life might be taking us
- or we might be choosing to travel.
Note that the flashiest character in the gospel we just heard
wasn’t the risen Jesus - it was that angel.
Kind of a super-hero angel who looks like lightening,
who glows like snow, brilliant in the sunlight,
and who’s strong enough to single-handedly
roll back the huge stone sealing the tomb of Jesus.
And he’s pretty smart, too - he reads minds (or hearts)
and tells the women he knows why they’ve come
before they’ve said a word.
On the other hand, Jesus is the risen guy the women bump into
as they make their way back to Galilee.
Jesus, like them, is someone making his way down the road,
looking for someone to walk with.
Jesus, the risen Jesus, met these two women in their grief,
in their misery, in their despair, in their misery.
It was in their broken hearts that Jesus came to meet them.
Did he rise from the tomb? Yes.
And then the next thing he did
was to rise in the hearts of these two women.
The scripture tells us the two women were “fearful, yet overjoyed.”
Too often, we’re just fearful.
We’re afraid of what’s gone wrong
and afraid of what might go wrong
and afraid of the wrong we’ve done
and afraid that what’s right will never be ours.
Jesus knows we’re afraid
but he invites us to share in his joy
- even in the midst of our fears.
Who could know how much joy in our lives you and I have missed
because we allowed our fears to consume us?
How much joy have we lost,
because we would not step outside our grief?
How much joy has passed us by
because we were stuck in our own disappointments?
How much joy has gone unnoticed
because we could not, we would not look beyond our troubles.
If Jesus rose from the dead, from a tomb,
you can be sure, you can be confident,
you can trust that he’s waiting to rise
from any depths in which we find ourselves.
If any moment in the forty days of Lent just passed,
if any moment in this Holy Week,
if any moment in our prayer today
has found you in touch with Jesus - in spite of your fears -
then know that he is rising in your heart - now.
And even if you’ve come late to the feast,
if Lent and Holy Week somehow got away from you,
be sure that the risen Jesus is walking whatever path you’re walking
and that his first desire to walk with you
and invite you to walk with him.
He may not appear to you and me as he did to the women in the gospel
but he comes to meet us nonetheless,
every time we gather at his table and remember his love for us
and his offer to come and dwell and live within us
in the bread and cup of the Eucharist.
Jesus rose from the dead over 2,000 years ago.
And he rises this morning in your hearts and mine.
Open your eyes, open your ears, open your mind and your heart
and, as the angel promised, you, too, will see him.
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