Easter Sunday 2016

     

     This morning we gather at the empty tomb to celebrate a historic truth; the truth that Christ “was dead and is alive again.”[1] This feast of Easter is revolutionary. Their have been many great thinkers, many founders of religions and many holy people in the course of human history, but only one, to my knowledge, who claims to have risen from the dead.

     When we stop to think about it, Christ’s resurrection can seem absurd. The idea of someone rising from the dead can seem so far beyond reality that it can be easy for us to celebrate Easter as just another holiday without pausing to face the fundamental reality of our faith that Christ truly rose from the dead. If we don’t truly believe in the resurrection we simply regulate Christ to the level of just another wise man, teacher or founder of a religion. Yet it is hypocritical to regulate Christ to this level because Jesus claimed to rise from the dead and if He didn’t truly rise from the dead, then He is a lying fraud and no lying fraud can be a true wise man, teacher or founder of a religion. Friends the resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith, either we come to believe that Christ rose from the dead or the whole Christian faith crumbles.

     When the resurrection seems to good to be true, I think of St. Peter, who saw the empty tomb and the other apostles who encountered the risen Christ and I recall the historical fact that they gave up their lives as martyrs to witness to the faith, rather than to deny the resurrection. While some people may fabricate a story for their own gain, no one in their right mind would die for a lie. The witness of the apostles, who gave their lives as a witness to the resurrection, is the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that we need to believe the unbelievable, to believe in the resurrection. While hard to believe, the resurrection is not impossible, for God, who is the author of life, certainly has the power to raise Himself from the dead.

            This celebration of Easter thus boldly proclaims that God exists, for only God has the power to bring life out of death. “The resurrection of Jesus gives us the certainty that God exists, and that, as the Father of Jesus, he is a God of man.”[2] The resurrection shows us that Jesus is not just a great teacher, He is our Savior. “Easter can be understood as the feast, so to speak, of evolution, of life that ascends through all catastrophes and also sustains us and gives us hope.”[3] His resurrection is proof of His teaching and an invitation to follow Him to eternal life.

     Today’s feast of Easter is the culmination of a love story. A love story of the God who created us, not for His own good, but rather out of pure love for us. It is the culmination of a love story whereby our God searches after us even after we have rejected Him through sin; a God, who, in His thirst for us, sent His only Son into the world to die a brutal death on the cross, that we might be lead from slavery to sin into the freedom of grace. This story of God’s love for us has no end, for it continues until the end of time into eternity in the sacraments of the Church. Thirsting for our love, Christ now comes to us in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. In Holy Communion his glorious Heart is pierced and opened to receive our hearts, in order that He may lavish upon us His Divine Mercy and Love. Yet love cannot be forced on anyone, so this love story, the empty tomb we encounter today, demands a response and it invites us to recommit ourselves to the Church which Christ left us to lead us to Him who will bring us to our own resurrection.

     In just a moment, we will stand and renew our baptismal promises. Having encountered the Risen Christ we are given a chance to make our response, but this response is not just a one time deal. Christ rose to bring us salvation and has invited us to follow Him to eternal life. So standing at the empty tomb, this morning, we are challenged to ask ourselves how will I live out these baptismal promises in my life. What steps must I take to follow the teachings of Christ and His Church, so that I might rise with Him to eternal life?  This annual feast of Easter is then “an invitation to us to return to our own baptism, to size the hand of Truth which reaches out to us to lead us to the light. To renew our baptism, and hence genuinely to celebrate Easter, the feast of liberation, means that we renew our acceptance of the truth of faith; it means entering into the light of this truth and, as believers, overcoming the darkness of truth’s absence.”[4] The empty tomb reminds us that God became man not only to teach us and to inspire us, but primarily to save us. His empty tomb then calls us to be disciples, so that in following after Him we too may follow Him through death into eternal life.

[1] Lk 15:24

[2] Dogma and Preaching 310

[3] Dogma and Preaching 307

[4] Behold the Pierced One 126

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