April 4, 2021
I don’t title my homilies, but I do try to find a phrase that summarizes the message. What comes to me today is “From the Head to the Heart.”
The Catholic Church has been celebrating Easter or the Passover (Pascua) for over 2000 years. Somewhere, we hear the story in our catechism classes. It is a doctrine of our faith, and I think, that most Catholics just leave it as a doctrine and don’t think any more about it.
The Resurrection pattern is seen everywhere in creation — the seasons of the year are a pattern of the Resurrection, winter to spring, to summer, to fall. We can see the pattern unfold and repeat itself each year.
We do not see it in ourselves, perhaps, as human beings. It all stops at our death and burial, but today, Jesus tells us it does not, not for him and not for us!
This requires that we know about Jesus, what he stood for, what he taught, what he did, and also, his surprising, surprising invitation to know and follow him as the way, the truth, and the life. We find the Resurrection in our personal relationship with Jesus. It is more than a doctrine. In our relationship with Jesus, we have our relationship with his Father, we find our soul and spirit touching his soul and spirit. That is the Resurrection.
While we are here making our way through this experience of life, we are trying to adapt to and to adopt the persona of Jesus in our own life. As we start loving and serving in our daily lives, an osmosis begins to happen. A new understanding begins to emerge, a new sense of a personal and spiritual connection to everything because the life of spirit of God lives in everyone and everything, and dying, is the moment for a new infusion of the God-life. Every year, we receive this gift, most especially where time does not exist and eternity does. The life of God is the thread that connects the past, the present and the future. The life of God is the Resurrection to the future, is the future.
We do not find this in a catechism book. We find the Resurrection in our prayer, in our spirit, in God’s heart.
What was the experience of the disciples on that Sunday morning? It was not the resurrection of a body. There was no body. There was only an empty tomb. Thus, the exasperation of Mary of Magdala. Peter and John ran to the burial place. No body.
There is one detail in today’s story that points us in the new direction. It is the burial clothes all folded up neatly and set aside. The later rumor put out in public by the legal authorities to say some of Jesus’ followers must have come and stole his body would not have left everything so neat and tidy and would probably have taken the linen clothes as well – as they were expensive sheets.
The story tells us that Peter had no clue, but that the disciple who arrived there first “saw and believed.” This is our first story that we hear.
What did he see? John intuits in his heart that something is going on. Jesus is somewhere. We do not read today what happens next. Mary of Magdala, overcome with grief, not only is Jesus missing but his body is gone. She then sees angelic figures inside the tomb, she hears a man’s voice, perhaps the gardener; she is simply overwhelmed. In her stupor and sorrow, she hears her name, “Mary,” and his familiar voice. For a short moment, she sees Jesus, hears Jesus’ voice, and he disappears.
What does John intuit? What does Mary hear? John says to himself, “He was my dear friend. I know he would do something extraordinary. I know that what happened would not be the end.” Mary hears the voice she always knew. In an instant, she and Jesus spoke and she embraced him, and then she finds herself once again in the empty tomb.
Today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is a short homily purporting to be words of St. Peter, a homily about Jesus’ life and resurrection — and it concludes: “everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name,” Peter says.
And a later letter from St. Paul to the Colossians encourages us to think about life and our experiences in a different way, not to be so literal, so matter of fact, so visual. Life is more than a story of facts and dates and activities. “Think of what is above,” St. Paul suggests from Jesus’ vantage point, who has been through it all.
St. Paul gives a spiritual gem for us to reflect upon in our hearts: “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
If we want to experience the presence of the Risen Jesus, we need to enter our own hidden heart and spiritual selves. Why do we find it so difficult to find that hidden consciousness of the Christ? Because we are unconscious. How many of you here today are interested to find your “hidden life with Christ in God?” The risen Jesus is not a fabrication that someone made up. But what is also true is that he will not appear to you if you don’t join him where He is.” “In our hidden life with God!”
You can understand better what I am talking about if you read the rest of Chapter 3 of St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians. We have to leave one pattern of unconscious living for a real pattern of conscious living.
I don’t have time to tell you about the simple pattern, other than it has to do with an active awareness, living no lies, putting on a better and newer self, and living in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience.
Please take time this week to read the first 17 verses of St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians (Chapter 3). Jesus wants to find his home in our lives, that is the only way in which we find him Risen from the Dead.
A final note: I read a recent Gallup Poll last Wednesday that under 50 percent of Americans belong to a church, a synagogue, or a mosque. This is a 20 percent decline from about 70 percent from 20 years ago.
Only 70 percent of Americans identify as Christians and there is a startling increase of Americans who identify with no particular religion.
What struck me clearly and sadly is the process that is becoming clearer.
- Church attendance is the first to go, for whatever reason,
- Belonging to a faith community is second, no affiliation or connection,
- And finally, belief.
Will a belief in Jesus Christ and in his Resurrection fall into the sunset? Will Jesus have to come again and start all over? I believe that depends on all of us and whether or not we are living as St. Paul encourages us in Chapter 3 of St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians.
Let me leave you with St. Paul’s prayer for us.
“Let the message of Christ, in all its richness,
Find a home with you.”
From the head to the heart!