Easter – April 21, 2019
This is the day the Lord has made! … Welcome one and all on this day of Resurrection – this day that defines who we are as Christians. … Welcome to our Cathedral Church … welcome to our Catholic family – welcome to our brothers and sisters from other Christian communities and faith traditions – and especially, welcome to our Jewish brothers and sisters who join us and who celebrate Passover during these very days. … It is good that we are all here together.
Just a moment ago, we heard the story of how Mary of Magdala visited the tomb of Jesus early in the morning on the first day of the week, only to discover that the stone covering the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away. She ran to find Peter and the other disciples. And when they arrived at the tomb they saw the burial cloths and the cloth that covered Jesus head rolled up in a separate place. The scriptures tell us that they struggled to make sense of what they saw for “they did not yet understand that Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”
While the events of that first Easter morning make sense to us today, there’s no reason for us to believe that Mary, Peter, or any of the first followers of Jesus were anything but confused, heartbroken and powerless to sort out all that had happened to their teacher and friend. … A tension existed between what they experienced on Calvary and what they now saw and heard.
Pope Francis explained this tension best, in his reflections upon the resurrection. To experience the hope of Easter, we have to be “willing to enter into the mystery” of God. “The mystery demands that we not be afraid of reality: that we not be locked into ourselves, that we not flee from what we fail to understand, that we not close our eyes to problems or deny them, that we not dismiss our questions. … To enter into the mystery of God, we need … the humility to recognize who we really are: creatures with strengths and weaknesses, sinners in need of forgiveness.” … In short, we need to appreciate our powerlessness and our absolute dependence upon God.
The recognition of this reality in our lives has the ability to do far more than we might ever imagine or believe possible. It has the ability to open our hearts to encounter the very life of the risen Jesus. In fact, our powerlessness and dependence upon God become the seedbeds for faith – a faith born not from some sort of proof, but born within hearts that are open to the presence of God – a faith characterized at times by uncertainty and doubt – but a faith, nonetheless, that leads to an unshakable trust in a person: the person of Jesus.
This past year has proven to be a sobering one for many of us in the Church. The tragic behavior of some members of the clergy as well as Church leaders have left many of us bewildered, unsettled and angry. And we can only imagine what such actions have done to those who have survived abuse.
As we try to make sense of this moment, many have questioned how the Church could ever again see itself as a vehicle of hope and consolation for searching, suffering people. Yet, from the very beginnings of the Church all the way to this time in our history, Christians have always struggled to understand how the miracle of God’s saving grace could possibly intersect the broken and fragile lives that make up our Church.
This Easter day reminds us of why the Church continues to be our world’s greatest hope, even and especially in its brokenness. … This day affirms that the heart of our faith is not a pope or bishop, not a priest or a brother or a sister. … The heart of our faith is the risen Jesus.
For those who doubt these words, speak with one of the thirteen individuals who were baptized and received into full communion in the Church last evening during the Easter Vigil, along with 165 others in our Diocese and thousands from around the world. They will tell you that for as broken and as wounded as our Church may be, they have encountered the presence of God in this community of believers. They will tell you that they are here because they’ve experienced the risen Jesus living among us and in his Church.
Less than a week ago, the world stood still and watched in disbelief as Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral was ravaged by fire. We all gasped as its towering spire collapsed into the heart of the church and wondered if any of this sacred place would survive. I recall watching news reports Monday evening, waiting for images that might provide a glimpse of the charred interior of the church. Eventually, the first image was released – one that caused me and perhaps many of you to gasp. With embers still visible in what remained of the cathedral’s roof and amid mounds of debris, a massive gold cross atop a statue of the Pieta seemed to pierce the darkness and illuminate the entire space with its glow.
One reporter captured that stunning image with profound words of faith. “In the midst of rubble, the cross continues to stand with its enduring promise of rebirth and life.”
For all the images that speak to our faith, the cross of Jesus stands out above all the others, doesn’t it? … And why? … Because the suffering Jesus speaks to our suffering, pain and grief – and the risen Jesus, born from the same cross, alone has the power to fulfill the deepest longings of our hearts that yearn for meaning and purpose – for life and peace – for God.
“In the midst of rubble, the cross continues to stand with its enduring promise of rebirth and life.” … Brothers and sisters, this is Easter! … May this blest day enable us to see and understand that our only hope in life is found when we acknowledge our powerlessness and are wise enough to trust in the great mystery of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus – living among us and in his Church.
This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad!