4.1.18. Easter – B
Acts of the Apostles 10: 34a, 37 – 43
The Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians
Gospel of John 20: 1 – 9
Please refer to your own Bible for the Scripture readings.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Experiencing the Resurrection Daily
Who was laid in the tomb beneath Calvary? It was a man; but it was not just any man. It was “love incarnate”. As we read in the First Letter of John: “God is love” (1 Jn.4:8). The Son of God was laid in the tomb. In the tomb lay the “Prince of Peace” (Is.9:5). It was He who witnessed: “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). In the tomb, lay the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn.1:29). Buried in the tomb was the “Good Shepherd”
Who remained outside of the tomb, continuing their lives as they chose? The Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes who orchestrated the death of †Jesus continued to live their lives as if nothing important had happened. Pontius Pilate and the Romans who nailed †Jesus to the Cross and pierced His side with a lance. It was just business as usual for them. Outside the tomb was His betrayer. Outside the tomb was His friend who denied Him. Huddled in the Upper Room a few hundred yards away were His disciples who abandoned †Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane; terrified that they would be next to be crucified.
But, He who was the fullness of “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness and gentleness” (Gal.5:22), He lay buried in the tomb. All the while, those who were cruel, hateful, fearful and sinful remained outside the tomb. There is something incongruent about this. But, on the third day, early in the morning, the world would be set right: †Jesus would leave the tomb.
St. Paul writes: “Now, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor.15:29). What happened to †Jesus, will happen to us. We, too, will rise from the dead. However, we do not have to wait until physical, clinical death claims us, for the end of the world, to rise from our graves. We can experience many resurrections throughout our life. Fr. Ron Rolheiser writes: “Physical death, for most of us, comes last. First, there is a long series of other deaths, of crucifixions, of diminishments and losses. In this, we follow the pattern of what happened in Christ” (Fr. Ron Rolheiser: The Passion and the Cross; Franciscan Media, Cincinnati, OH; 2015; p.89). We all experience little deaths through life; a death that comes from hurt, betrayal of the crosses we carry. The complete self-revelation of God, †Jesus Christ, the love and goodness of God, was crucified and buried in the tomb. This is our story.
How often does the image of Christ in us get crucified and buried; hidden from the world? Then, what is imperfect, what is sinful and selfish remains alive in us, for all to see. Where we are most precious, most beautiful and where the true image of God exists, this gets buried away deep within. I go through life, living “my way”; ungrateful, unfaithful to God, hurting others, rationalizing my behavior, and lying to myself and others that I am doing just fine. I go to Mass every Easter and my spiritual life works for me. All the while, Christ in us, is living in a tomb; buried deep down within us, in darkness that we are afraid to explore; afraid of what we might find if we look to deeply. Only after Mary Magdalene announced that †Jesus had risen from the dead did Peter and John run to the tomb. For two thousand years we have known that †Jesus is risen. Yet, how often do we remain behind locked doors; afraid to run to be with †Jesus?
This Easter, we are being challenged. Daily, we must roll back the stone and leave an empty tomb. Daily, we must strive to let Christ rise in our hearts and in our lives; let the truth of †Jesus radiate in our lives: His “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal.5:22). We must manifest the gifts of the Spirit; the Spirit of the Risen Christ. Every day, we have a decision to make as disciples of †Jesus: whether we will roll away the stone or keep the stone in front of the tomb, leaving †Jesus buried inside us? Whether the †Jesus within us is seen by the world or hidden in a tomb of fear, disappointment or discouragement? By our witness in the family, in the workplace, among neighbors, friends and even strangers, do we live a resurrected life? Or is †Jesus still buried in the tomb?
I will say something that might be shocking for you. As Christians, we do NOT believe in an afterlife; as if we die and go to some other “place”. Jesus taught: “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look here it is’, or, ‘There it is’. For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:21). The Kingdom is already present but not complete. Fr. Timothy Radcliffe writes: “We believe in eternal life, which happens as we are ignited by love of others. When we (physically) die, our present ‘living for God’ comes to fruition” (from Give Us This Day (March 2018); Liturgical Press. P.421).
It is like a child in its mother’s womb. We believe that life begins at conception so, for months, the child is wrapped in its mother’s love. At birth, this love reaches a new depth as the baby emerges from the womb. The Spanish expression for birth is “dar a luz”: “to give to the light”. At birth, the mother and child see face to face. The baby is no longer surrounded in darkness; the baby is taken from the darkness and “given to the light”. With each daily resurrection we experience, †Jesus rises from the darkness within for all to see His glory shining through us. †Jesus is “given to the light”. If we choose unity with the “Light”, the Light of Christ symbolized in the Paschal Candle, we are “given to the Light”. Last night we began our vigil in darkness. Then the light of the Paschal Candle was shared as everyone lit their candle from the Paschal Candle, and light cascaded around us. We have been “given to the Light”.
We must roll back the stone, daily, so the good in us that lies hidden, can be revealed and, that which is weak and sinful in us, will lie hidden away. We must die to our self so †Jesus the Light can live in us. Pope Francis teaches: “The Resurrection of Christ…is the mystery of the discarded stone which becomes the foundation of our existence…That stone – †Jesus, the source of life – is (often) discarded (in this throwaway culture)” (Easter Homily; 16 April 2017). We live in a culture that continues to reject the cornerstone, pushing †Jesus and His teaching further out of the public discourse. The Holy Father compares us to pebbles attached to the stone rolled way from the tomb. We acquire meaning when we stand outside the empty tomb, as an empty tomb. “†Jesus is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!” †Jesus is Risen in us!
Throughout our life, there must be regular resurrections. Christ, who is love, must rise in us daily. “Love will triumph over apathy and hatred; togetherness (will triumph) over loneliness; peace over chaos; and forgiveness over bitterness” (Fr. Ron Rolheiser, ibid, p.91). As we celebrate the resurrection of Christ this Easter, let us celebrate Christ rising from the tomb. Let your life become an empty tomb where all that is good, holy and loving is visible for all to see. The world awaits your resurrection dance where you are “given to the Light”; bringing life, love and hope and light to every one you meet.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.