Father O’Connor’s Easter Sunday Homily
16 April 2017
We are so familiar with the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead that it is difficult for us to capture a sense of the total astonishment of the first witnesses.
To begin with, there are no adequate words to describe what had never happened before to any human being. We are plunged into the deepest mystery. We might understand the words, but we cannot fully grasp their inner meaning.
For the first time since creation began, there is a living human being that will never know death again. On Easter, time and eternity – both mysterious – have come together: a living, human body that will never stop living. And because Jesus lives, we will live forever.
We can only imagine the complete astonishment of Mary Magdalene and the apostles when the Risen Christ appeared to them. They must have thought, “He was dead, and somehow He is now alive. It really is Jesus. He still has the marks of His wounds.”
That the resurrection of Jesus happened on Easter Sunday morning is a matter of faith. As Christian people, we believe this. And the faith to do so is itself a gift from God.
Last night, two members of our parish faith community received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist: Nicholas Toney and Lea Hall. They received and accepted the gift of faith as did 523 new Catholics in the parishes of our Diocese of Cleveland last evening at the Easter Vigil.
Those who try to penetrate the impenetrable and fathom the unfathomable will all come up with explanations that only inspire skepticism.
“Jesus came back spiritually from the dead,” some say. So, apparently, does Elvis Presley.
Others say, “Jesus would not be remembered if He had not come back in some way.” That is a bit of an improvement, but Gautama Budda has Jesus beat on this score. Budda is remembered after nearly three thousand years.
But what about the faith of billions of people throughout more than two thousand years who have believed that Jesus truly rose from the dead? That is a much stronger argument and should make us listen to what Christianity has to say.
To use the words of Cardinal Newman, “You have to bend your stiff neck to decide that your mind is not the measure of all things in heaven and on earth.”
We need to accept the testimony of the prophets and the apostles who have seen and heard the sights and sounds of eternity, and shared them with us.
“You have to receive the kingdom of God as a little child, or you cannot enter into it,” as Jesus Himself tells us [Luke 18: 17].
Easter is the day to believe with all of your heart and soul, mind and strength that Jesus, who once was dead, is now alive. And that because He lives, we will live forever too. This belief gives our life today profound meaning and significance.
As the Christian hymn puts it:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
For I know He holds the future.
And life is worth the living just because He lives.
How sad life must be without a belief in the Resurrection. God must give a special grace to those who do not know about it, just to keep them going.
I feel sorrier for those who identify themselves as Christians, but for whom the resurrection has no real bearing on their daily lives.
Life has lots of sorrows, lots of “ways of the Cross.” And, if you live long enough, it includes several trips to Calvary as well.
But life has only one Easter. So let’s get ready and live as people who already share in His resurrection – because He lives!
For we do indeed believe and proclaim: He is risen! He is truly risen!
And we are grateful, and continue to be astonished.