Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday - homily

Let’s see if anyone knows this from last year…Christ is risen! (A few people) “He is risen indeed!” Ok, a few of you know it. Last year, we said that in early times, Christians would greet one another on Easter Sunday with ‘Christ is risen!’; ‘He is risen indeed!’ Let’s try it again this year. Christ is risen! (whole congregation) “He is risen indeed!” Feel free to use that all day as you greet people!

Do you believe in the Resurrection? I recently began a homily at a local high school to students and parents with that question and asked it in the same, rhetorical way. Some people answered the question – “yes…amen…I believe”. I paused for a moment, and said, ‘ok, my work is done’, and went to take my seat! So, you all missed your chance! This is the most fundamental question for any Christian. Did the Resurrection really happen? Did Christ rise from the dead? St. Paul says that if there’s no resurrection, then our faith is pointless; we should go home now. C.S. Lewis and others have said that if Christ didn’t rise from the dead, then he is a liar and blasphemer. He said he would rise, and if he didn’t, he is a liar. If he didn’t rise from the dead, then he is just a man and not God’s Son; he called God, ‘Father’, and so he would be a blasphemer. But, he did rise from the dead and everything he said was true; he is the Son of God. His resurrection is the event that changes the world and gives us hope for eternal life.

If we ask ourselves, ‘how did I come to believe in the Resurrection?’, we see that it comes from the faith of others, most likely our parents. And, their faith came from their parents, and so forth. The amazing thing is that the faith in the resurrection of all Christians comes from one person, as we just heard in the Gospel: Mary Magdelene. It is because of her testimony that Christ is risen that the Apostles come to believe, then the disciples, and all the way down to us. It’s an amazing thing when the faith of many people comes about because of the faith of one person or a group of people. Let me give an example.

The same high school to which I referred in the beginning called me in the Fall to celebrate Mass. They told me that they were in need of priests this year because their priests were not available, by and large. It was actually one senior in the school who told the school to call me for help with Mass and confessions; I’ve been friends with her for many years from another parish. Well, this year has been amazing at this school – many students (and teachers) have been coming back to the faith. Many have returned to the Eucharist and Confession after many years of being away; they have found much healing this school year. I recently told my friend that this has all come about through her; it was through her faith and testimony that many of her peers and teachers now believe, just like Mary Magdelene.

There are many of us (or our family members and friends) who are struggling to believe, not just in the risen Christ, but in God. Many people are asking, ‘Does God exist? Did He create me? Is He with me? Does He hear me?’ When people come to me with these tough questions, I direct them to the Eucharist. For Catholics, this is the question – is it really Him in the Eucharist? Is it really His risen body and blood? Is he truly present on Earth? It’s similar to the questions about the resurrection – if it’s not really Him, then it’s a lie and a blasphemy, and we should go home now. But, it really is Him, and it’s the most amazing event in the world (the one we’re about to witness).

I have seen many people’s faith in the Eucharist grow here because of the faith of one or a few persons. In the youth group, for example, we have had some of our leaders and other teens who believe in the Eucharist bring their friends to Eucharistic Adoration. Their friends now believe. It’s been amazing to see the faith of our teens grow. It’s happened in our school as well, where students and teachers have helped kids as early as the third grade believe in the Eucharist through Mass and Adoration. I have seen it with volunteers, with families, with married couples, and with friends here. It’s an awesome thing when God stirs the faith of many through the faith of one or a few persons.

If you are struggling with your faith, I direct you to two places: the Eucharist and other believers. It’s very helpful to associate with those who believe in the risen Christ – to pick their brains about stuff. But, it’s mainly to see their example: to see their joy, their hope, kindness, generosity, etc.

As we receive our risen Lord today in the Eucharist, may God help us to grow in faith. May He help us to grow in hope. May He help us to grow in love. That, through us, others may come to believe in Him – that it is really Him risen from the tomb, and it is really Him present in the Eucharist.


At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Maryann said...

I woke up this morning, trying to understand the range of emotions I felt between Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. “Awe,” a feeling of amazement and respect mixed with fear and a feeling of complete personal insignificance or powerlessness would probably be the best description.

Amazement in the brutality and significance of His death; fear in the overwhelming task I have ahead of me. The atrocities He solemnly endured for me are beyond my comprehension as are the infinity and totality His peace and love offer.

How lucky I am to say, "Alleluia, Christ has risen, truly risen." How challenged I am when I try to live the words in the Apostles’ Creed.

At 9:06 PM, Anonymous Cynthia BC said...

I was amused by the story about prodding the congregration to respond to the greeting "He is Risen!" This greeting, and the enthusiastic response "He is Risen Indeed!" has long been a tradition throughout the Easter season at the Lutheran church in which I was reared (even at sunrise services, when the sun had barely made a showing). My Catholic husband was taken aback at this greeting and response at a Lutheran Easter service we attended together - he claimed that anyone who attempted such a greeting at Mass would be regarded with mute astonishment. Apparently he was correct!

"He is Risen...He is Risen Indeed!" is a greeting filled with a joy, and a wonder, that is difficult to describe. During the Easter season, we just can't say it often enough. I will miss this special Easter greeting once we begin the season of Pentecost.


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