Fr. David’s homily Easter 2016.
March 27, 2016
Let me ask you a question. I ask it for myself, as well. Does faith in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead make a difference in your life? Does the back-to-life of an itinerant rabbi in the 1st century have anything to say about human dignity? Does it have anything to say about hunger in the world? Does it have anything to say to refugees still risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better life? Does it have anything to say to Israel? To Palestine? Does it have anything to say to Isis? Does it have anything to say to the suffering of this world? Does it have anything to say about the disparity of wealth, in our own country growing more shamefully day by day? Does it have anything to say about you, about your family, about your relationships, about your struggle to make a living? If it doesn’t, then, it’s just another spin on springtime. It’s just like caterpillars becoming butterflies, and the commercial world is right to use it as an occasion for colored eggs and chocolate bunnies.
The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, for millions of us, speaks to us and to this world of ours, now! Because beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions, beneath our religious practice or lack of it, we are all vulnerable to what one author describes as the storm without and the storm within. The storm without is the chaos and tragedy of the world;
the storm within is our own struggle, our own fear of failure and pain. I don’t know about you, but I have a founded need for someone to help me quiet these storms. Oh, I am deeply grateful for so many of you who now and over the years have helped me to quiet my storms without and my storms within. But I submit to you that Jesus Christ does it for me, as well. For many of us. Just as he did for those who first came to believe in him.
Consider this woman Mary of Magdala. She was no fool. She loved this Jesus deeply. She was with him during some of his toughest times. She couldn’t let him go. After his mother, she was the most important woman in his life. She was as unbelieving of his death as any of us would be toward one we had loved over the years suddenly and cruelly taken from life before his time. There was a storm without and a storm within her life. The story of her coming to his tomb after his death is tender. She’s had a sleepless night. She’s frightened when she sees the tomb empty. She runs away from the tomb. Her heart is broken; she seeks answers. She tells two of his disciples, Peter and John. They run to the tomb. And the bible says: “They saw and believed.”
And then what happened to them? The storm without and the storm within began to quiet down.
They began to live with hope and without fear. That’s it: to live with hope and without fear.
We read later on what that hope and absence of fear meant in their lives, as they lived in a hostile world that would try at every turn to crush their hopes and magnify their fears. They began to form a community of believers – which meant then, as it does now, a community where they lent one another a hand when the other was falling. Then and now, it’s perhaps the only work that matters in the end.
The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is not an historical event, if by historical you mean, something that can be verified and so persuade reason. It is rather an event which changed people’s lives then, and is able to change people’s lives now. So the question is haunting. “What does the truth of the event mean for me? For those of us who believe?” I can’t answer for everyone, only myself. For me, it means that I can live in hope and live without fear. Can you do that? Can you continue to live in hope in a world that seems to grow more violent and confused? A world that seems to thrive on revenge and retribution? A world of shrill voices, a growing lack of civility in civic discourse? Can you live a life of peaceful resolution to crisis? Do you have the personal resources to do that? Can you, do you, live without fear? Fear can never be the motive for anything you do or not do. Fear enslaves you if you allow it a welcome. I think it’s true for many of us. I know it’s true for me. I fear failure. I fear misunderstanding; I fear humiliation; I fear isolation; I fear growing old – and I don’t have to. I marvel at those who first believed in his resurrection. I marvel at their metamorphosis from fear to fearlessness, from skepticism to belief, and from disappointment to hope. I trust them and their witness. For me they’re believable. I have learned from them as they adjusted their priorities, as a new paradigm for living empowered them. I stand with them as they came to grips with a crucified messiah, whose teaching of healing and forgiveness, understanding and tolerance, of peaceful resolution, changed them. Their experiences, their growth, their grappling with the realities of their own lives in light of the resurrection of their Lord, provides for me a challenge to be a man of faith, of hope and love.
My fellow Christians, the world belongs to those who bring it the greatest hope and absence of fear. Jesus of Nazareth, his life, his death, and yes, his resurrection, that is, his life giving presence in the world, empowers millions of us to bring hope to the world.
Now I speak to you good people, parishioners of this blessed church family, visitors – friends all –I’m going to ask you to renew your baptismal promises. I’m going to ask you some questions. I ask them of myself, believe me. When we ask and answer these questions, we are church. We are surrounded by one another, but we are also surrounded by an army of witnesses stretching back to that first Easter, and extending down through the ages to this day. We’re in it together. We don’t always agree. But if we are open to his beauty and his truth, then we nourish and are nourished by one another unafraid of the storm without and the storm within. If we are struggling to bring his cry for justice and peace to a world bereft of sanity, then we are his disciples just as surely as were those first empowered witnesses of his resurrection. After we answer our questions, we come forward to eat the bread. More nourishment. We are then strengthened to find him in our own hearts, in our families, in this church and this world of ours. And then both the storm without and the storm within will never harm us ultimately, and we will know the joy that comes from faith in him.
David J. McBriar, O.F.M.
Gospel JN 20:1-9
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.