Easter 2020

     Today, as we gather to encounter Christ we hear the angel announce to us “He is not here … He has risen.”[1] My friends, what more do we need to hear? Jesus who was killed, placed in a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers and then when all hope seemed lost, He kept His word. “He has risen just as He said.”[2] This truly is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.[3] In a year when we cannot gather even to celebrate Easter Mass, because a virus has caused so many to experience serious illness and death, while leaving millions unemployed and nearly everyone anxious, worried and concerned, we celebrate Easter, allowing Jesus to break into our personal histories to challenge these things that paralyze us and to allow Him to triumph over the fears that try to lay siege to every ounce of hope.

     But Jesus doesn’t just enter into our lives on Easter only to leave tomorrow. No, the angel tells us that He waits for us in Galilee,[4] the place where it all started for Jesus and the apostles. Easter invites each of us to go back to where our faith began and to hear Him say to us once again “take courage … do not be afraid”[5] … “Come follow me.”[6] For if Jesus can rise from the dead, if He can move through death to life, He can certainly move us through the coronavirus pandemic, if only we are willing to follow Him.

     In just a moment the liturgy will invite us to go back to the beginning as we once again renew our baptismal promises. Having encountered the empty tomb, 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. This annual feast of Easter is an invitation for each of us return to the start of our faith, to our own baptism, to grab ahold the hand of Truth which reaches out to us to leads us to the light. For in renewing our baptismal promises we renew our acceptance of the truth of faith and as believers we allow this truth to illuminate the darkness around us. “The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step toward Jesus we come to realize that he is already there waiting for us with open arms.”[7]

     The empty tomb is a reminder that Jesus didn’t come into the world just to take away our earthly suffering, but rather He came to save us. “God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles.”[8] Out of love for us Jesus commands all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, and all who are sleeping to arise because He did not create us to be held a prisoner. No, His empty tomb, calls us to be disciples, so that following after Him we too may follow Him through death into eternal life.

     And so, the empty tomb begs of us to ask how are we living out those baptismal promises in our lives? What are the steps we have to take to ensure that in our own lives we are following those teachings that Jesus shows us leads us through death to light? The good news is that Easter is a chance to start anew. Regardless of what has happened in the past, Easter is an opportunity for us to return to our own baptism, to seize the hand of truth which reaches out to guide us towards eternal life.

     Once again today, nearly 2,000 years later, we celebrate this historic truth, the truth that Christ “was dead and is alive again.”[9] Today’s celebration of Easter thus boldly proclaims that God exists, for only God has the power to bring life out of death. Not only does God exist, He exists for us. “In resurrecting Jesus after his shameful death on the cross, the Father delivers his judgment on Christ’s mission and work.”[10] Jesus’ resurrection is proof that He is who He says He is, the Son of God, who humbled Himself to become one of us so that we could be like Him. So then, “Easter can be understood as the feast, so to speak, of evolution, of life that transcends through all catastrophes and also sustains us and gives us hope.”[11]

     A couple of weeks ago, when it was announced that we would not be able to gather for Easter Mass someone said to me, “the Church has cancelled Easter.” No! Not even death could keep Christ from fulfilling His mission. There is certainly no virus or anything else that can cancel Easter. The empty tomb is proof that nothing, none of our fears, none of our anxieties, not even death itself, can keep Christ from breaking into our lives to beckon us to follow Him through the death to life. Christ has risen from the dead that’s a historical fact. So, what do you have to worry about? If he can conquer death, He can conquer anything you might be worrying about in His own way and in His own time.

[1] Mt 28:6

[2] Mt 28:6

[3] Ps 118:24

[4] Mt 28:7

[5] Mt 14:27

[6] Mt 4:19

[7] Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium. Washington DC: USCCB. (2014). Pg 1

[8] From an ancient homily quoted in the office of readings for Holy Saturday

[9] Luke 15:24

[10] Christoph Cardinal Schonborn. God Sent His Son: A Contemporary Christology. San Francisco: Ignatius (2010). Pg 218.

[11] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.  Pg 307.

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