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The Resurrection of the Lord
April 4, 2021

Watch this homily! (Begins at 40:30)

     What a difference a year makes! We’ve still got a long way to go, but the fact that hundreds of us can gather here in the Cathedral to celebrate the most important feast of the Church’s year - and the central mystery of our faith – should give us hope. Last year’s celebration of Easter was virtual and only virtual; this year, for some, at least (and how I wish it could be more!), the celebration is real. However slowly, we are making progress!

     I thank God for that because, without taking anything away from the amazing technology that makes virtual celebrations possible, there’s a danger of confusing the virtual with the real, or even of coming to think of the virtual as real. I can’t tell you, for instance, how many times I’ve asked myself: was my visit with that couple preparing for marriage in person or was it by ZOOM? Was I actually in the Cathedral with the Archbishop or was it his livestream Mass? I’m not always sure. In some ways, the virtual seems to have become the new real!

      Having said that, I’m here to tell you, my friends, that the Easter event we have gathered to celebrate this morning, whether here in the Cathedral or on our computers, phones, or laptops is, in every sense of the word, real. It is not virtual! Christ is risen; Christ has defied the power of death, shaken off its grip. He lives. He lives for us and he lives with us, and because he lives, we live!

      Easter is all about life, and only about life - the new and boundless life Christ makes possible by his victory over death, the life that is already ours in the abundant sacramental life of the Church, the life that will one day completely overflow in us when God raises our mortal bodies to share fully in the glory of the risen Christ.

     Now, I know that, for some, if they give a thought to the Resurrection of Jesus at all, it is not real – it’s more in the realm of the virtual - and certainly not an actual event in human history. For them, Easter is a metaphor for the triumph of life over death, of good over evil; or it’s a poetic way of saying that Jesus and his teachings are timeless and enduring, or that his disciples, after he died and was buried, came to know him in a new way. But, my friends, we have not come here, or tuned in, this Easter morning to celebrate a metaphor. We are celebrating Easter this morning because we believe - or we are doing our best to believe - the astonishingly good news proclaimed by the angel at the tomb to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary early on that first Easter morning: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here for he has been raised just as he said.”

     We need, my friends, on this Easter day to hear that news the way those women heard it. We do. We need to hear it and be amazed by it. We need to hear the words “Do not be afraid,” because, let’s be honest: there’s a lot of fear out there. In so many ways, our world seems to be spinning out of control: the pandemic is still raging in many places and people are still dying; millions are still out of work and struggling to survive; businesses that were once the cornerstones of our community are gone for good; mass shootings are in the headlines way too often, the health of our planet is gravely compromised, and our democracy that we thought of as all but invincible has shown itself to be alarmingly fragile. So many of our old certainties have been turned upside-down. So, yes, we do need to hear those Easter words, “Do not be afraid.”

     And we also need to hear the words, “You are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here for he has been raised.” We need to hear those words this morning and to be set on fire by them, jolted by them as if by an electrical charge. The message those women received – that Jesus was risen – is gospel – it’s Good News - the greatest news of all time, greater even than the “glad tidings of great joy” proclaimed one night by angels to shepherds on Bethlehem’s hillside, for in raising Jesus from the dead God was intervening in human history to proclaim definitively that life, not death, will get the last word, that no matter how decisive death might seem, life will prevail.

      And don’t we need that assurance - that none of the death-dealing things that swirl around us – not the pandemic, not wars, not the cancer of racism or the threat of domestic terrorism; not the casual disregard for human life or the selfish exploitation of our planet, – none of these are the end of the story – anymore than the death of Jesus was the end of the story. No, the Resurrection says that God, who in raising Jesus from the dead, changed the very trajectory of human history, can also change hearts and minds, no matter how hard or closed. For the Resurrection of Jesus was not only God’s decisive and transformative word in the face of the human hatred that brought about the passion and death of Jesus, it is also God’s word – God’s assurance - that in the end it is love – unconditional, self-emptying love – not hate, that will triumph. Light over darkness, life over death!

      And, my friends, there are signs of that life today. I look around this Cathedral and I see signs of life. You are signs of life – you with your faith and love and goodness. And I look at the spring that is bursting all around and I see signs of life, as I do in the smile in someone’s eyes, in the playfulness of little children, in the commitment of our kitchen volunteers, the compassion of our St. Vincent de Paul members, the courage of medical workers – there, and in so many other places, I see signs of life, abundant life! There is darkness and death on our world, for sure, but there is also light and there is life! And the Resurrection of Jesus is God’s assurance that life is what will win out, and not just life in the hereafter; no, life here and now, the life we express great longing for every time we pray the words, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  
     My friends in Christ, the Resurrection of Christ is real and we need to hold onto that belief against some pretty bruising odds, some powerful storms – including the present storm we’ve all been living through. We need to hear again and again those reassuring words, “Do not be afraid,” and no matter what challenges we face, we need to be reminded that we are not alone. Far from it. We are part of a great community of faith - the Church – a community that is, I am hoping, even more important to us now than it was before COVID-19 showed up. This community, however flawed and however imperfect - is a great and a holy community nonetheless, and the faith we share and celebrate together is an Easter faith, a faith charged with hope, a faith fired by Jesus Christ himself, risen from the dead, whose triumph over death is our triumph, too.

      May the flame of faith consume our fears and bring light to our darkness, and may the Eucharist we now celebrate and receive open our eyes so that, with the disciples of old, we will come to recognize Christ, the Risen One, in the Breaking of the Bread!

Father Michael G. Ryan

 

 

 

 

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Seattle, Washington  98104
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