Easter Homily, 2012, St. Mary Parish, Trenton
Based on Mark 16:1-8
(This is the Gospel assigned to the Easter Vigil for Cycle B. It may also be used Sunday Morning. The Roman Catholic Lectionary uses only verses 1 to 7. I added verse 8 for the original context.)
This spring we’ve seen the power of devastating forces of nature. tornados ripped through towns in Southern Illinois and destroyed everything, even a church building of our brothers and sisters in Ridgeway. For the people of those towns and parish, life becomes uncertain, their former lives seemed secure, their sense of normalcy is shredded.
Probably all of us have had experiences that radically change our world view. What we thought we knew was true and normal no longer holds, leaving us to acknowledge we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. People lose their jobs in a poor economy. A diagnosis of cancer is spoken by the doctor.
It doesn’t have to be a negative event that shakes up people’s routine lives either. A daughter announces she’s getting married. The pregnancy test comes back positive. Someone wins the Mega Millions lottery in a small southern Illinois town. All life changing events, traumatic and joyful. Such is Easter.
We’re here today because about 2000 years ago there was what you could call a “earth shaking event” that was the destruction of one of way of life and the beginning of an uncharted future. Three women go to a tomb expecting to find a dead body. Instead, they are confronted with evidence that seems to be impossible. The body’s gone. The tomb has been opened and some guy in white is babbling on about their dead friend wanting to see them back home. Well blow me over like a tornado smashing my life to pieces!
You know it’s interesting, very interesting! The three women ran from the tomb in terror. The three early morning visitors to the tomb of Jesus fled from the scene. AND they say nothing to anyone. The news was too shocking, too bazaar. Who would believe them? What’s going on? Perhaps the women were thinking something along the line of these lyrics from an Easter song I like…
Now you leave us trembling and weak,
no more the sureness of death,
no more the world that I knew,
life that is new with each breath.
Where now is the body you wore?
What is this dark empty hole?
Where is the One that I loved?
Where is the fire of my soul?
We, like the three women have all sorts of pain in our lives. We’ve all experienced loss. You and I know the world and even our church is a messed up place. Death, decay; a world that has it’s share of fear is our experience. This is what we’ve all come to expect: that violence, disease, terrorism, heartbreak, poverty and death are the norm of human existence. So if this Jesus is alive, where is the one we loved? Can it be true? Where is this risen Christ? And, finding him what does it mean for the rest of life? Where is the one we love? If what the stranger says is true, that Christ is alive, where is he? Where’s the evidence. An empty tomb proves nothing. Bodies decay. They get moved by cemetery workers.
Where is the one we seek, this Jesus? Here in our midst!!!
Look to the folks who wear the white robe. Some scripture commentators say that the guy in white sitting in the tomb is a symbol of the church, the baptized. Jesus is alive for his work continues in the baptized. Do we not call the church “The Body of Christ?” Do not look for the living in dead history and lifeless cemeteries but in the living folks gathered here today.
In his life, Jesus preached good news and good news is still heard, today, from the church. Words, though not always eloquent, that give hope to people are proclaimed, still.
In his life Jesus forgave sins, and still, all of us experience forgiveness of spouse, of a friend, of God.
Jesus helped those in need and the hungry, the homeless, the sick are tended to, sometimes better than others by church members efforts and institutions, but those in need are still cared for.
Jesus broke bread — we break bread in Mass and know his presence.
If you want to know where this living Jesus is, you must get involved in the church’s life and work, for he is encountered in the life of the church. The risen Christ is encountered in the midst of our relationship with each other as the Body of Christ.
Somehow God’s purpose, that is God’s desire that humans have fuller life that was revealed in Jesus’ actions…Somehow that purpose is still happening in our day, our time, despite the human inclination to be selfish, to cause division in humanity:
in our imperfect works of charity and justice. The work of Christ carries on, for he is risen and lives in the Body of Christ baptized people gathered in the communion of Church. Quite frankly, the church, if it were just a human enterprise would have self-destructed ages ago. It would be a group of nice people trying to do good, but it’s internal problems would have probably caused it to self-destruct. The fact that we’re still here is some sort of evidence that there’s more going on in this group of “nice people” than a human effort at humanitarianism.
God’s power is still pushing back stones of selfishness and sin that entombs people’s lives. Today! Among us who gather. Life is rising out of even the human ability to bring about death. In the resurrection, God pulls the great reversal, showing his power by bringing about a NEW ORDER of existence in raising Jesus Christ. Death leads to life. This is a new day, our life is forever different because of the power of the Resurrection which destroyed the old way of living.
We’ve got a choice:
we can run from the fact of Jesus’ resurrection in fear, say nothing about our faith that life comes from death. After all, our head will tell us, actively living what we believe will just open us up to people’s ridicule.
We can proclaim by our lives what we’ve experienced in our heart and in the life of the Church, that God’s power can bring life out of death. We know He lives because of our experiences of him in the life of the communion of believers. That’s why, even though the first witnesses kept quiet, the news got out. God kept giving people the experience of Christ alive. There are more resurrection stories than three women running in terror from the tomb and saying nothing. And, the Church must follow where Christ leads.
Here in the midst of death, now in the darkest hour, we shall know the face of God,
Here in the midst of life, now in each human form, you shall be the Risen one.
What wondrous love this is that turns death into life!
What a powerful warrior that defeats the enemy death is revealed in Christ!
How amazing is the gift, that we are privileged to share in his victory!
Do not be afraid! Do not be traumatized into silence by this earth shattering event. Seize the opportunity to start life over, again, now and forever.
©2012, Rev. Joseph C. Rascher
May not be duplicated or distributed in any form without author’s permission.
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