Saturday, March 30, 2013

Today, let us rise with the Son! | Homily for the Easter Vigil


A young woman was flying home from college from Chicago to Providence at Eastertime.  As she stared out of the window down at the countryside below, her heart was heavy and tears were in her eyes.  Her first year of college was nearly over and it had been a disaster. She felt lost and was uncertain of what direction her life should take; if it even had any meaning.  Her only ray of happiness lay in the fact that she’d soon see the ocean again, which she missed and loved so dearly.  The plane touched down and her grandmother met her at the gate.  The two of them drove home in complete silence. As they pulled into the driveway her only thought was to get into her car and drive to the ocean. It was well after midnight when she arrived at the beach. What happened next is best described in her own words. She writes, “I just sat there in the moonlight watching the waves roll up on the beach. Slowly my disastrous first year passed before my eyes day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month. But, then all of a sudden the whole experience fell into place. I realized something profound: It was over and past and if I chose, I could forget about it forever and let it simply be in the past.  And there was a great freedom and relief in that realization. And, then, the next thing I knew, the sun was coming up in the east. As it rose gloriously breaking the darkness of the horizon, I sensed my feelings starting to peak, just as a wave peaks before it breaks.  It was as though my mind, heart, and body were drawing strength from the rising sun and from the ocean. All my old goals and enthusiasm came rushing back stronger than ever.  In that moment, I rose with the sun.  Renewed, I got into my car, and headed for home.”

After her Easter vacation the young woman returned to school, picked up the broken pieces of her year, and fitted them back together again. In the short span of an Easter vacation, she lived and died and rose again. And for the first time in her life she understood the meaning of Easter; she understood the meaning of Resurrection.

My friends, we gather on this holy night to celebrate the most amazing event in the history of the world – not only that God became one of us; but that after being put to death – the violent death of crucifixion – Jesus did something that defies the senses; that defies nature – He rose from the dead.  Death has no power over Him.  “Death where is your victory? Where is your sting?”  We are so used to this mystery of our faith that it can lose its punch for us; but we are challenged tonight to remember just how extraordinary this is – Jesus, who was dead, returned to life and life in the full.  And, through the grace of our Baptism, He invites us into the same life with Him.  We know about the Resurrection, but tonight we need to ask, does this central reality of our faith have a real meaning, a practical meaning in our own lives?

Now, we know we will be raised on the Last Day, but what about experiencing Resurrection today?  Think about the disciples.  Before the tragedy of Good Friday, Jesus was the person who gave meaning to their lives.  They had pledged their lives to Him. They had put their dreams in Him. They had pinned all their hopes on Him. But, then came Good Friday. All those pledges, all those dreams, all those hopes were smashed into a million little pieces. With one terrible thrust of a soldier’s spear, all those pledges, dreams, and hopes died on the cross with Jesus.  With one terrible thrust of a soldier’s spear, their very lives died on the cross with Jesus. When the sun went down on Good Friday, they, too, were buried in the tomb with Him. To them, surely, it seemed as though it was all over. 

But, then it happened! As the sun rose on Easter Sunday morning, Jesus rose with it and appeared to His disciples. He was more radiant and more fully alive than they had ever seen Him before. And at that moment, the power of Easter, the power of Resurrection, began to work in the lives of the disciples. Suddenly they were transformed from a band of despairing men, into a brigade of daring missionaries. At the command of Jesus, they set out to carry the news of Resurrection to the farthest corners of the earth. And everywhere they preached this good news, the power of Resurrection 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 they preached, the power of Resurrection – of new life - began to work miracles in people’s lives. And, my friends, those miracles haven’t stopped yet. They continue
to happen in our time. Easter is a broken-hearted college girl wiping away her tears and beginning again renewed. Easter is a band of defeated disciples transformed into an army of daring missionaries. Easter is a world in darkness throwing off its chains of despair and walking in the light of a new hope. And that brings us to this gathering, in this church, on this Holy Night.  So, what is the power of this Resurrection for us today, in our lives now?  How can we experience the Resurrection that Christ invites us into? Where do we see it in our lives? 

The answer is simple.  Every time we love again after having our love rejected, we share in the power of Resurrection. Every time we trust again after having our trust betrayed, is a moment of being Raised. Each time we fail at something and still pick ourselves up and try again, Easter is born in us.  When we hope again after having our hopes and dreams smashed into pieces, new life is restored in us. Each time we wipe away the tears running down our cheeks, face the sun, and start again, we share in the power of the Risen Lord.  When we dare see something good in others, especially those we struggle with, we are in the Light of New Life.  Every time we forgive others or receive their forgiveness; every time we go out of our way and help those who are poor and in need, we embrace the liberating power of the Crucified and Risen Lord.

The message of Easter is simply and powerfully this: nothing can destroy us anymore - not pain, not sorrow, not sin, not rejection, not even death itself. The revelation coming from Easter is that Christ has conquered all, and that we too can conquer all, if we unite ourselves with Him. It is the Good News that every Good Friday in our lives now has an Easter Sunday.  It is Good News that we don't have to wait until death to share in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus; we can experience new life in this life!

And we can begin to do it right now, in this life, at this moment, in this Holy Mass. All we have to do is open our hearts to the grace that Jesus won for us on that first Easter Sunday more than 2,000 years ago.

This is what Easter is all about. This is what we celebrate as we now prepare to break bread together on this great day of our Christian faith. My friends, Jesus has risen and as we celebrate the Resurrection of the Son of God again He invites us to rise with Him.  Will we rise again with Him?

Happy Easter and may the Risen Lord give you peace.

1 comment:

  1. I never thought about Easter this way. I still can't wrap my head around a body coming back to life but I have a better understanding of the meaning of resurrection. I stumbled upon this blog because I wanted to know where the pope lived and so thankful for your words. Thank you.