Sunday, May 8, 2011

Easter Sunday

Non Est Hic, Surrexit Enim

Homily for Easter Sunday
24th of April, 2011

Parish of Saints Peter and Paul
Rev. Mr. Michael Taylor

And the angel answering, said to the women; “Fear not, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He is risen, as He said. Come, and see the place where the Lord was laid.[1]

If the bones of Jesus were found today, would your faith be changed? How many of you would find that troubling? In the Creed which we profess, we state that we believe in “the resurrection of the dead.” [2] But what does that mean? It is often times one of the most difficult things for us to grasp. Many people have no trouble believing that a spirit exists in eternity. Yet the idea that our bodies will be resurrected and dwell in eternity is contrary to our experience. We’ve never seen anyone resurrected from the dead. We know that the bodies of our ancestors not only lie in graves, but have decomposed to the point where we are pretty sure we wouldn’t want them back even if we could.
But this is why the Easter Narrative is so powerful. Jesus rises from the dead, having conquered the consequences of sin which is death.[3] His death reaches into the very depths of the human experience, so that His resurrection affects all those who have come before us and who will come after us. We believe that Jesus descended into hell, from which He rescued our first parents, Adam and Eve. Christ says to Adam, “I am your God, who for your sake has become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendents I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are sleeping to arise. I did not create you to be a prisoner of hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.” [4]  I was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I hold the keys of Death and Hell. [5] It is through the resurrection that Jesus broke the curse. Yet not even His disciples who had walked with Jesus and been told that He would rise again, understood Christ’s message.
In John’s gospel, there are three different reactions to the empty tomb. Magdalen finds an empty tomb and wants to know where to find Jesus’ body so that she might bury it. Christ Jesus was not where she thought He was. Peter finds the empty tomb and fails to understand what it means. Jesus Christ’s resurrection was not what he thought it was. Thomas hears of the empty tomb and demands to see proof. Christ Jesus was not where Thomas thought he was. They were afraid, doubtful and entrapped in their chains of despair because Jesus was not where they thought He was. Christ Jesus is not in the tomb, He walks among them. Christ is not dead but has raised humanity up to eternal life. The wounds of His passion are no longer signs of defeat but banners of victory. If you are still chained in the habits of sin, then Christ is not where you thought He was. If you are isolated in the despair that life has no meaning, then Christ is not where you thought He was. If you have lost the hope that you are called to be a child of God, indeed a saint, then Christ is not where you thought He was. My brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, He has blunted the sting of death, He has torn the gates of hell asunder and if this news does not fill your heart with joy and your mouth with praise, than Christ Jesus is not where you thought He was.
            Jesus has conquered death, for He is the Resurrection and the Life.[6] We know that He resurrected our human nature through His divine power. A human being is not spirit alone. You have never met a soul. Human beings recognize each other through seeing each other’s faces, hearing another person’s voice, or even from the way a person smells. Even people who experience seeing ghosts claim to see the embodiment of a spirit, the appearance of the flesh. If our bodies cannot be redeemed, than humanity is not redeemed, for human beings are body, soul and mind.[7] In baptism, a seed of faith was placed within our hearts. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. [8] It is as Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians, But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those who also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man also the resurrection of the dead.[9] But we know that Jesus rose from the dead. He ate fish with His apostles,[10] was able to break bread with them,[11] and even had Thomas place his hands within the wounds in His sacred hands and the hole in His side from the sword which had pierced it.[12] More to the point, the Apostles were all willing to suffer martyrdom proclaiming not just the message of Jesus, but the faith of Christ Jesus crucified and raised to new life.
            When you were brought to your baptism, your parents were asked, “What do you asks of the Church?” To which they answered, “Faith.” Faith is not only an act, not just an action we do. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the assurance of things not yet seen.[13] Faith is real. It is a seed whose harvest is life everlasting. Faith changes us. It binds us to the Father through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. It joins us together as the communion of saints, those who have come before us, those present now, and those saints who are not yet born. Most importantly, especially today, it makes present before us today the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, so that by sharing in His death, we might share in the glory of His resurrection. For as often as we eat this bread and drink this chalice, we proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes [14] in glory.[15] “It is Jesus Himself who on the last day will raise up those who have believed in Him, who have eaten His body and drunk His blood.”[16] Man, by himself, cannot live forever, and indeed, all come to death. Only if we join ourselves to something which is eternal, can we hope to live forever.[17] Look then upon the wood of this cross, and see in its splintered beams the very bridge upon which we might gain life everlasting.
            We come to a crossroads of our faith. On these wooden beams, God incarnate shed His blood. If Jesus is only a human being, than His death has no meaning, it forgives us of nothing. If Jesus is God, creator of all things, seen and unseen,[18] then His death and resurrection is the wholly supreme and marvelous work of the Father.[19]  If Jesus is God, His message cannot be ignored. What is the message of Christ? In Mark, the first words spoken by Jesus are the time is accomplished and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel. [20] In Matthew, Jesus asks His apostle, who do others say that I am? [21] They answer Him that some say He is a prophet, or Elijah reincarnate. Then Jesus asks them, who do you say that I am?[22] Simon bar Jonah answers, Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God.[23] Simon’s confession of faith is transformative. It transforms him into something that he was not before, as revealed by Jesus changing his name from Simon to Peter, who will become the rock upon which Christ will build His church.[24] Now, when people asked Simon who he was, he answered with the identity given to him by Jesus, “I am Peter, an apostle and servant of Jesus Christ.”[25]
            Who do others say that you are? Do they see you and think of a Christian? Do they see in you the teachings of Christ? More importantly, what do you see when you look in the mirror? Are you happy with the person you see? Is it the person you thought you’d be when you grew up? When we are young, people often ask us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It is not often, if ever, that we are asked, “What type of person do you want to be when you grow up?” If you are not happy with the person you are, it’s not too late to change. If you find within yourself that there are evils and sins which have torn your life apart, wounding your friends and family, it’s not too late. If you are still haunted by the demons of past sins, it’s not too late. The tomb is empty. Christ has won the victory. The question I ask you here today is, Do you believe? Do you believe in the Resurrection? Do you believe that it is possible for God to love us so much that He gave us His only begotten Son that whosoever shall believe in Him will not die, but have everlasting life?[26] Look again at the tomb and see in its emptiness the promises of God fulfilled. May the God of peace Himself sanctify you in all things: your entire spirit, soul and body may be preserved and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who hath called you is faithful. He will do it.[27]

[1] Matthew 28.5-6
[2] The Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed, Catechism of the Catholic Church, §988
[3] Cf. Romans 6.23
[4] Ancient Homily on Holy Saturday, Taken from the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday.
[5] Revelations 1.18
[6] John 11.25
[7] Cf. Deuteronomy 6.4-7, Matthew 22.37
[8] I Corinthians 15.42
[9] I Corinthians 15.13-14,16-21
[10] Cf. John 21.13
[11] Cf. Luke 24.30
[12] Cf. John 20.27-28
[13] Hebrews 11.1
[14] I Corinthians 11.26
[15] Cf. Apocalypse (Revelations) 22.20
[16] Catechism of the Catholic Church, §994; cf. John 5.24-25; John 6.40ff
[17] Cf. Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, p. 302
[18] Cf. John 1.3 and Colossians 1.16
[19] Saint Augustine, taken from Compline after Evening Prayer I from the Divine Office. Cf. Enchiridion: On Faith, Hope and Love, ch. 14, §53, “Whatever was done, therefore, in the crucifixion of Christ, his burial, his resurrection on the third day, his ascension into heaven, his being seated at the Father's right hand -- all these things were done thus, that they might not only signify their mystical meanings but also serve as a model for the Christian life which we lead here on the earth. Thus, of his crucifixion it was said, "And they that are Jesus Christ's have crucified their own flesh, with the passions and lusts thereof"[Galatians 5.24]; and of his burial, "For we are buried with Christ by baptism into death"; of his resurrection, "Since Christ is raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also should walk with him in newness of life"; of his ascension and session at the Father's right hand: "But if you have risen again with Christ, seek the things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."[Colossians 3.1-3]
[20] Mark 1.15
[21] Matthew 16.13
[22] Matthew 16.15
[23] Matthew 16.16
[24] Cf. Matthew 16.17-18
[25] I Peter 1.1 and II Peter 1.1
[26] John 3.16
[27] I Thessalonians 5.23-24

No comments:

Post a Comment