This Easter Sunday homily was given at St. John the Evangelist & St. Cornelius Parish in Caledon, where I served two summers as a seminarian.
Often our coming to Holy Mass the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, our being here is something we know is good for us, but for many of us, we are at a loss to explain why we come; which can also be a reason why (for some of us) we stop coming altogether.
It would seem that if we’re not able to convince someone else, anyone else, even our children – or to have our parents convince us of why we should be here – then eventually it might even stand to reason that we are ‘living a lie’ and we give up believing that coming to Mass is an important and connected part of our spiritual lives.
We may then, come to believe that we fit into a different category “I’m spiritual and not religious” and belong to a belief system that eventually will crumble away what we accept by faith; until it will be hard to have faith in anything at all(p). Perhaps you think you’re going to hear a homily criticizing you if this is you – but guess what, you’re not! You’re not because I too have been there most of my life, with little or no desire to be a religious man, a Christian man. You’re not, because we’re glad you’re here with us tonight/today; we all have a past, but Jesus loves us in the present and forever! I’ve also made the mistake of believing that my faith had to be so sure and strong that I had to convince everyone else that I was right and they were not that it led me first to a sense of hopelessness, it led me to great doubt and drove a wedge between me & the Lord. I don’t judge, because I struggled with faith even as a new Catholic, and continue to. Faith wouldn’t mean anything if it came easily to us; it wouldn’t be faith in God if it left nothing to mystery and the imagination. We struggle but so too did the disciples. I think we can well imagine how each and every disciple questioned and doubted his faith until the tomb was found empty and even then until they encountered the Risen Lord. Most of us have our periods between Good Friday and Easter Sunday where everything is mystery, where our faith is tested. My hope and prayer for each one of us here is that as the Lord Rises Glorious and Immortal, our faith rises and is transformed to be stronger, deeper, tested and true. We are all here because we have faith, or we want it. We are invited today to a new or renewed faith in God, to a deep and meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ and then once again to the baptismal waters. It began at baptism for us, ends with death and dying to self in life and our faith is raised again with Christ, new and transformed with Him in His Resurrection. And we pause to reflect upon the greatest act of love (ending on the Cross on Good Friday) and the greatest sign of faith, hope and love (we celebrate today at Easter in the Resurrection). Friends, we may not be able to explain why we are here – but we are here! And that’s what so pleases God. We may not have it all figured out, but that’s okay because it’s already figured out for us, all we have to do is stay committed to Jesus and to the Easter Promise, and things are never going to be the same. Tonight/today, I want to share with you the words of Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk, retired Archbishop of Cincinnati. He had the most beautiful way to look upon what our faith in Jesus Christ is all about; what the meaning and purpose of our life on earth and with God forever is all about. Let us listen to these words – these words express why we are all here:
The most important thing in the world is that God is madly in love with us. There’s no reason for it. God just loves us. That’s why there is a world. That’s why each of us is here. God has loved us for a long time, ever since the beginning of human history. And God has never stopped loving us, even when we human beings made a mess of things and we did our best to forget about God’s love for us. But that’s not all. God loves us so much that He wanted to be one of us. In Jesus Christ, God became a human being not just to tell us who and what God is, but also to show us who and what we are supposed to be. Jesus was faithful to that mission even when it cost Him His life.
But that’s not all. Jesus is still alive because His heavenly Father wouldn’t let Him stay dead. Jesus is with us still and has sent us the Spirit that unites Him and the Father to make us live God’s life in addition to our own. To be part of that life we don’t have to earn it, we don’t have to deserve it. All we have to do is accept what Jesus offers us and then act in accord with what He has made us to be.
But that’s not all. Jesus has established a community of those who have accepted Him so that none of us ever has to be alone. Jesus nourishes that community with Himself (Holy Communion we receive at Mass; with the Word of God we hear and the faith we unite ourselves in and profess) and He marks every major moment of the life of every member with His personal action in the sacraments.
But even that is not all. God loves us so much that this life of Jesus that we have been given to share will never end. God wants us with Him forever. No matter how confusing and painful our life may be, we have God’s guarantee of final fulfillment. In the most literal sense, God has promised us that everything is going to be all right. God invites us to take constant joy in hope.
But there’s still more. Because we share the life of Jesus, we share the mission of Jesus. Each of us is called to extend the love and care of the Lord to those around us. We may not seem to have much to offer, but what we do have is eternally important because it’s not just ourselves that we offer, but the Lord Jesus Himself. The Lord has chosen to need each one of us to get His work done. Nobody’s life is insignificant.
The long and the short of it is that God is crazy about us. Once we accept that, everything else falls into place.
Friends, that’s pretty good news. There’s no question that we all need a little good news right now. There seems to be much hopelessness, bad news, uncertainty in the hearts of many. It is here that we find sanctuary with the Lord; here in our community of believers. We celebrate this most especially at Easter. This is very, very good news! Nothing happening in the world today has dominion over love in our hearts; over the joy and peace we can have faith and trust in. The Lord died on Friday, everything seemed doomed and downcast with Jesus in the tomb. But He has Risen, truly He has Risen! The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a promise of transformation; it ought not to lead us into doubt and confusion; but clarity, hope and promise. A joyous Easter and may God bless you!