Sunday, April 12, 2009

We too can be raised!

SOLEMNITY OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD, April 12, 2009:

Back during the first Gulf War in 1991, a Kansas mother received the news one Thursday that every mother prays she will never receive. Two army officers walked into the factory where she worked and told her that her son Joshua had been killed in action. She cried and went home to mourn his loss. Then, Saturday night, while she was in the kitchen, the phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “Mom, it’s Josh! I’m alive!” He had to repeat those words three times before his mother realized what he was saying. He went on to tell her that he was very much alive, that he had been injured but would be okay and that there had been a mix up somewhere along the line. His mother, of course, began to cry tears of incredible joy – her son was alive!

That fantastic story bears some resemblance to what happened in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Even some of the details are similar. Like Jesus, Joshua had met death at the hands of enemies as he performed a service for people that he believed in deeply. As was true in the case of Jesus, Joshua’s death was mourned for nearly two days. And, as was true of Jesus, the news that Joshua was alive and not dead filled his mother and his friends with incredible joy.

But the similarity between the two stops there. Joshua was only thought to have been dead. Jesus, on the other hand, was truly dead. Moreover, Joshua’s “new life” if we can refer to it as that, was simply a resumption of his former life. Jesus’ new life, on the other hand, was a leap forward into a higher life – a life that no person had ever experienced. Jesus’ new life involved resurrection, not resuscitation.

The word resurrection does not mean a restoration to one’s pervious life, as happened to Lazarus for example, or Jairus’ daughter, or the widow of Nain. It is not resuscitation. Resurrection is something infinitely more. The word resurrection designates a quantum leap forward into a totally and completely new life. It is something no human being had yet experienced. In other words, the body of Jesus that rose on Easter morning was radically different from the body that was buried on Good Friday.

St. Paul compares a body before and after resurrection to a seed and the plant that emerges from it. He says in First Corinthians, “When the body is buried, it is mortal; when raised, it will be immortal. When buried, it is weak; when raised, it will be beautiful and strong. When buried, it is a physical body; when raised, it will be a spiritual body.”

And this brings us to our gathering here in our church on this day of days. Easter tells us that the personal transformation of life that took place in Jesus is not something that is reserved for Jesus alone. It is something that will take place in each of us through the grace of our own baptism. We, too, are destined for resurrection. We, too, are destined to share in the incredibly transformed life that Jesus now enjoys in heaven.

More close at hand, Easter tells us something else. We see in our Gospels that not only was Jesus remarkably transformed on Easter, but also that His disciples were remarkably transformed. Easter transformed them from a band of despairing people into a brigade of daring missionaries. At the command of Jesus they set out to carry the message of Easter to the farthest reaches of the Earth. And everywhere they preached the Good News, the power of Easter began to work in people’s lives, just as it had in their own lives. Beautiful things began to happen. Despair gave way to hope; darkness gave way to light; hatred gave way to love; sorrow gave way to joy.

In short, everywhere the disciples preached, the power of Easter began to work miracles in people’s lives. And those miracles haven’t stopped yet. They continue to happen to our own day.

This is the Good News of Easter! This is the Good News that we have come together to celebrate today. It is the Good News that we are destined to be transformed just as Jesus was transformed on this day 2,000 years ago. It is the Good News that Jesus also wishes to transform our present lives today, just as He transformed the lives of His disciples after His resurrection. It is the Good News that Jesus is ready to work miracles of new life in us, if we but open our hearts to His Easter power. It is the Good News that every Good Friday in our lives can be turned into an Easter Sunday, if we but open our hearts to the risen power of the risen Jesus.

It is the Good News that we don’t have to wait until we die to share in the risen life of Jesus. We can begin right now, here today, in this Mass, in this moment of Easter joy and resurrection.
This is what Easter is all about. It is the Good News that the risen Jesus is here with us, here in this church, in our midst, right now. This Risen Jesus invites us to a new life of faith, hope and love.

May God fill you with Easter joy!

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