Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter 2016: Alleluia

Easter 2016:
Alleluia, the Lord is Risen.  I love that word: Alleluia.  It is a Hebrew word that means: “Praise the Lord.”  Indeed, we praise the Lord today.  Jesus is risen from the dead.  He died and rose again so that all of us, even if we die, will live forever.  This word, Alleluia, captures the essence of our faith: we praise God because of all he has done for us.
On the night before he died, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.  He stooped down to wash them clean.  He said: do you realize what I have done for you?  As we think about the resurrection of Jesus, these words really strike home.  I think the resurrection is an event that we think is great for Jesus, but he did it for all of us.  There is a beautiful, ancient homily that reflects upon Jesus’ death.  It says that when Jesus died, he went into the realm of the dead to rescue Adam.  This is why Jesus died, so that he could reach all those who were imprisoned by death.  God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to seek all the lost children of Adam.  In his resurrection, he takes all of us with him.  Jesus says, do you realize what I have done for you?  As we proclaim that Jesus has been raised from the dead, we need to take it a step further and see that he rose, so that we might rise.  He lives, so that we might live.
This is a powerful and amazing message.  But, because it is something so central to our faith, it can be easy to take this message for granted.  I sometimes think about those GEICO commercials.  You know the ones?  You can save by switching to GEICO, and the response is: everyone knows that…  Sometimes the resurrection of Christ is like that: Jesus has been raised from the dead: everyone knows that…  But, stop and think about just how amazing this message really is.
We hear in the gospel today that the women went to the tomb to look for a dead man.  But, they didn’t find him.  That alone is pretty amazing.  Usually, dead people stay dead.  There is no doubt that Jesus was dead.  We heard the account of his suffering and death on Good Friday.  He was dead, but he didn’t stay that way.  Listen to the way it’s described in the gospel: the women were puzzling over the missing body, the disciples did not believe the story, Peter ran to the tomb and was amazed at what had happened.  Those first disciples were confused, amazed, surprised, and shocked.  They saw Jesus die.  There was no reason to suspect that he wouldn’t stay dead.  Even though Jesus had told them that he would rise, they were still shocked and amazed.  Jesus has been raised from the dead, everyone might know that now, but they certainly didn’t know that that first Easter Sunday. 
I love the way the gospel puts it.  The women tell the disciples and they don’t believe them because “their story seemed like nonsense.”  The greatest story ever told seemed like nonsense to Peter and the apostles.  Think about that for a second.  It seemed like nonsense.  The story was so amazing, so profound, so unbelievable, that even the apostles simply didn’t believe it early on.  The saving truth of the resurrection of Christ that most of us simply take for granted, was flat out not believed by the greatest saints in the history of the Church.  I think that when we take this story for granted we miss out on some of the power of the message.
Do you realize what I have done for you?  Ponder the mystery of the resurrection with new eyes.  Approach that empty tomb expecting to find a dead body.  Feel that sense of amazement when you see the open and empty tomb.  What could this mean?  How could this happen?  More than any other event in Jesus’ life, the resurrection shows us who Jesus really is.  Jesus Christ is the son of God.  He came here to die and rise so that we might live.  His death overcomes our sins, his death overcomes our suffering, his death overcomes our death.  His rising allows us to rise.  If we let this truth sink in, if we allow ourselves to be amazed, puzzled, shocked, and awed by that empty tomb, the effects can be amazing.
Like I said, this message wasn’t believed by the greatest saints in the history of the Church.  At least, not at first.  But, these apostles and holy women became the greatest saints ever because this story become much more than just a story.  They heard about the resurrection and didn’t believe. But, once they met the risen Christ, it changed everything.  If we want to be great saints, the same should happen for us.  We have heard this amazing story, but have we met the risen one?  Have we encountered Christ in our life in such a way that we truly realize what he has done for us?
What a blessing it is then, that we get to meet Christ right here.  The apostles met Jesus in the upper room after he was raised from the dead.  This is our upper room.  This church is our place to meet Christ.  This is the beautiful garden where we meet the risen Lord.  Right here on the altar, we celebrate the Holy Eucharist.  Right here, we see the risen Jesus.  He appears in a different form, to be sure.  But, it is the same Christ.  The Eucharist is Jesus, risen from the dead.  By meeting him here, he can transform us.

Jesus Christ has been risen from the dead, and he gives us his very body and blood here in the Holy Eucharist: everyone knows that…  But, today, on this Easter day, let’s not take this message for granted.  Rather, we renew our amazement, our wonder, our shock and awe at this profound message.  Reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus, we shout with our hearts: praise God, alleluia forever.

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