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The Resurrection of the Lord
March 31, 2024

Watch this homily! (Begins at 49:38)

 

    In the year 1941, while German bombs were raining down on London, a gifted spiritual writer and mystic, by the name of Caryll Houselander, published a book entitled, This War Is the Passion. She saw in the daily agonies endured by the British people during the Blitz the ongoing passion of Christ – his contemporary suffering in the members of his Body. And how right she was because the suffering does go on, doesn’t it? The passion. At this moment, the attention of the world is directed toward two horrific wars, one in Ukraine, the other in Gaza, and the same can be said about those as Caryll Houselander said about the London blitz: This War is the Passion. Christ is being crucified again in Ukraine and in the land of his birth!

     Does it seem incongruous to be celebrating Easter joy while those cruel and catastrophic wars are taking their daily grim toll? It might, but the truth is that we need to celebrate Easter more than ever. As we seek hope in the face of great desolation and light in the midst of darkness, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus who has triumphed over death.    

     Standing next to me is the paschal candle, lit from the Easter fire last night out on the front steps of the Cathedral and then carried into the Cathedral where for some time it was the only light in this vast space. Then, slowly, as we passed the light one to another, the entire Cathedral began to glow with a holy light.

     This Easter I find myself praying that the light of Christ that we celebrate at Easter - light that is symbolized by this candle - might overcome the darkness of the suffering people of Ukraine and Gaza, and suffering people everywhere.

      Easter is all about light: Christ, the light, who from the darkness of the tomb burst forth into the light of day. Christ, the light, who at a moment in time was completely overcome by the powers of darkness, but only so that he could in his very person turn darkness into light, doubt into faith, despair into hope, hatred into love. In my reading the other day I came across this arresting thought: “Our Scriptures do not give us words to explain away pain and death; rather, they give us the Son of God who was willing to get down into the trenches and suffer and die with us. Rather than encouraging us from the sidelines, he gets in the game and takes punches along with us.” It's hard to argue with that.

     My friends, that’s the Christ we celebrate at Easter, the Christ who, thanks to his victory over death, brings us life in abundance, overflowing life, life that is ours for the taking in the sacramental life of the Church, life that will one day completely overflow in us when the risen and glorious Christ raises our mortal bodies and makes them like his own in glory.

     Now, I know that, for some, the Resurrection of Christ is not real. It is metaphor, not actual event – a metaphor for the triumph of good over evil, of life over death; 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, began to see and experience him in a new way. But, my friends, we did not come here this morning to celebrate a metaphor. We came here because we believe - or are doing our best to believe - the astonishingly good news proclaimed to those three brave women at the empty tomb early on that first day of the week: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here. He has been raised!”

     We need, my friends, on this Easter day of 2024, to hear that amazing news the way those women heard it. We do. We need to hear it and to be set on fire by it, jolted by it as if by an electrical charge. The message those women received – that Jesus was risen – is gospel - Good News - the greatest news of all time, for in raising Jesus from the dead God was not only intervening in human history but transforming human history.       We call the Resurrection the New Creation, and so we should. God, whose all-powerful Word at the dawn of creation brought light from darkness and sparked the first stirrings of life, was doing so again. God who, at the moment the Word became flesh, embraced our mortal flesh and made it his own, was now transfiguring that same flesh with glory, a glory that even now, thanks to the grace of God, is ours!

     My friends, the Resurrection is mystery and miracle, but it is not metaphor. And it is also Mission. That is why, like those three women at the tomb, we need to carry from this place the good news that is our belief in the Risen Christ. We need to proclaim that faith. And how do we do that? Probably not by standing on the street corner, or even by Facebook or Instagram posts. There are even better ways. I like the way Carlo Carretto, a favorite spiritual writer of mine, puts it: “Every time we forgive an enemy, every time we feed the hungry, every time we defend the weak, we proclaim our faith in the Resurrection. When we have the courage to marry, when we welcome a newly-born child, we proclaim our faith in the resurrection. When we wake at peace in the morning and sing God's praise at the setting of the sun, we proclaim the Resurrection.”

     My friends in Christ, we are Resurrection people. We must keep the flame of faith alive in the face of some pretty bruising odds - including all the world’s wars - and all our personal struggles and suffering - which are the ongoing passion of Christ. But Christ’s passion was not the final word. His resurrection was. And is. And will be. Happy Easter!

Father Michael G. Ryan

 

 

 

 

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