I wish all my followers and those of you who are reading one of my homilies for the first time or occassionally read them a very blessed Easter and one filled with the presence of the risten Lord for He is risen indeed. If you have not read my Holy Thursday and Good Friday homilies, they are now in teh archives which you can reach in the Feasts and Holy Day menu bar above.
C Cycle – Easter Sunday 19
Jn. 20: 1-9
In the parish of my ordination behind the altar in the sanctuary hung a cross with a resurrected Jesus. Jesus in his glory, clothed in glory, with his hand raised as if in victory. I loved that image with the cross behind him as He seems to be beckoning us. Instead of a lifeless corpus, reminding us He suffered all of that for our sins. The risen Christ symbolizes the promise of God who sent Jesus to restore what we lost by the sin of Adam, our identity as sons and daughters destined to conform to the image of Jesus.
God’s plan was for Jesus to become more than our savior. His death not only was to free us from sin and death, it was transformative for us. It removed the barrier of sin and made possible the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to change our hearts, to teach us how to live as disciples and to open our minds to understand our destiny as to share the good news of God’s love. God promised to change our hearts and to pour His love into our hearts so we will understand the power available to us as a result of Jesus’ resurrection. That transformation is evident by looking at the response of Peter in today’s gospel and Peter’s response in the first reading which happens 50 days after the resurrection.
Lent may be over for us and we can rejoice in fulfilling or mostly fulfilling our Lenten promises. But God wants us to be more than a Lenten people, he desires us to be what he created us to be and that is what we will become after the 50 days of preparing for Pentecost. But I am getting ahead of myself, you need to understand why reading from the Acts of the Apostles is critical to us.
Let’s go back to the tomb for a while. We have an account from John where Mary Magdala early in the morning on the day after the Passover goes to the tomb. She finds the stone rolled back and the tomb empty. Her response was to run to the disciples and announces, “they have taken the Lord from the tomb and we don’t know where they put him.” Peter and the other disciple see the empty tomb, see the burial clothes rolled up but they do not understand. They heard him speak of his death and in three days he would rise but they failed to understand. Their response is not uncommon today, we know the story of Jesus and have been taught all it means for us but has all we learned transformed us or will we be like them as they struggle with his resurrection over the next 50 days.
They are not alone in their unbelief. Go home today and read the empty tomb account from all four gospels – Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and the rest of John 20 as well as chapter 21. What you will discover is fear, joy, trembling, bewilderment, unbelief, amazement, some women were willing to repeat to the disciples what they had seen and others unwilling to say a word.
Today we absolutely believe in the resurrection or we would not be here today, in church, celebrating His resurrection and what that means for us. But accepting and believing the story of the resurrection is easy for we believe the witness of the disciples, the teachings of the early Church Fathers, and the thousands of years of history, developed theology and dogma.
Is that enough to produce the fruit God intended as a result of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? I am going to answer that question for you – the answer is no we must do more than accept the story of His resurrection is absolute truth. We must be changed by what happened that day. But more is required for us to reach the point the disciples eventually reached and began to proclaim it.
Let’s go back to that morning of His resurrection. That day, Peter was as confused and bewildered as the rest of the disciples were that day. The body of Jesus was gone, and we see in the scriptures Jesus immediately begins appearing to the women (Mk. 16:9, Jn. 20:14) and to the disciples (Mt. 28:16, Mk. 15:12, Lk. 24:13, Jn. 20:19). The amazing thing is how they still were not certain what it all meant or how to respond to Jesus appearances. We know Thomas had doubts and refused to believe. We know Peter after seeing the risen Jesus announces, “I am going fishing” (Jn. 21:3). It was as if he was so confused, he was going back to his boat and pick up the life he had left behind to follow Jesus.
I am certain if we saw the risen Jesus, we would not have any trouble responding to what ever Jesus revealed to us. The amazing thing is we can experience the risen Jesus and all the transforming power of God’s forgiveness and love. It is part of the promise of God to change us and to restore us. That promise is seen in the first reading today when Peter after being touched by the Holy Spirit is no longer confused, bewildered, unbelieving, frightened, or uncertain of how to respond to the death and resurrection of Jesus. He becomes bold and declares with certainty that comes from the heart – Jesus Christ is Alive and his death has freed us not only from death but from the penalty of our sinfulness.
Pentecost is the key and those days between the resurrection of Jesus were filled with encounters of Christ in preparation to the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. We must follow in their footsteps and spend the days between today and Pentecost preparing for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us. I will make it easy by inviting you to read and immerse yourselves in the Acts of the Apostles from tomorrow until the day of Pentecost – 50 days to prepare yourself for this promise of God.
Begin with the first chapter and read through the 25th chapter. But more than read, first pray to the Holy Spirit and ask the Spirit to open your mind to hear God speaking to your heart through the stories. To allow you to see God’s plan for your life in those stories for they are the very essence of what we are called to become disciples. See the change in the disciples from uncertain, confused people who believed in Jesus but failed to grasp the meaning of all Jesus told them. Ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten you as it did them so we can continue to spread the good news that Jesus is Alive.