Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The resurrection and our response: Easter

(Listen to this homily here).

Happy Easter everybody!  The Lord is risen, alleluia.  The Lord is truly risen, alleluia!
      A very warm welcome to you on this, the best Liturgy of the year, the Easter Vigil.  A warm welcome to our family, our friends and visitors.  It’s so good to have you here tonight…know you are always welcome.
      I am in the habit of preaching five to seven minutes on Sundays, but I’ve saved a thirty minute homily all year, just for today…the longer the readings, the longer the homily!
      One simple point today—and it’s a question…Is this true?  This whole Jesus rising from the dead thing, did that really happen?
      In seminary I had a professor who asked us, “If the bones of Jesus were found today (and verified by science) what would that mean for you?  What would that mean for your faith?”  I raised my hand and responded (and I’ll edit what I actually said because we are in Church and there are children present): “I’d get the [blank] out of here!  There is no way I’d be a priest!”  Perhaps I could continue to be Christian with its altruistic and service-oriented norms, but a celibate priest?  No wife and kids?!  That’s where I would draw the line!
      Did Jesus really rise from the dead? 
      Yes!  He did!  Bodily…physically.  It’s not scientific, it doesn’t make sense.  It’s a mystery of faith.  But he did.  History tells us so.
      How do we know?  First, remember that Jesus was the only founder of a religion that claimed to be God.  Buddha didn’t claim that.  Neither did Mohammed.  Jesus claimed over and over again to be God!  The last thing Jesus could have been was simply a good person.  He either was whom he said he was—God—or a liar, or a lunatic.  Let’s assume for today that he is who he said he is—the Lord.  So if we really believe he was God, yes, he could have and indeed has risen from the dead!
      And there are eyewitnesses to this.  Every Gospel account records the reality of the resurrection.  And, by the way, there are more copies of these Gospels—as well as second copies and third copies—than any other ancient historical document!  This in itself says, “Hey, this is important stuff!”  Every Evangelist describes the resurrection. 
The women—Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome—saw the empty tomb.  So did Peter and the beloved disciple John.  So did the apostles.  Remember the famous story about doubting Thomas?  He said that unless he touched the nail marks in Jesus’ hands he would not believe.  And Jesus appeared to Thomas and Thomas touched the nail marks…and believed!
Here is how we are responding to this great claim at St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Columban Catholic parishes.  We are called to love God and neighbor.  These are the two great commandments of our Lord.
Jesus also said about his ministry—“The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”  We follow suit.  We are called to look for those on the fringes of society—the poor, hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, homeless, ill, imprisoned and destitute. 
And Jesus’ last command—“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”  We are called to make disciples—those who are willing to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
We need everyone chipping in to help fulfill our mission.  Whether you were year yesterday, last week or it’s been since Christmas or even longer, we want you here.  This is your home and family and you are welcome to come as you are.  You are not, however, welcome to leave home as the same person!
We gather as a parish family to rejoice in the truth of the resurrection.  We pray for the grace to love God, love our neighbor, seek the lost and make disciples.  The Lord is risen, alleluia.  The Lord is truly risen, alleluia!

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