Deacon Cornell's Homily


Acts 10:34,37-43
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20-1:9


April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday

This Religious Ed teacher had spent all of Lent teaching her young class about Easter and its significance. On the last class before Easter she decided to go around the room and see what her students had gotten out of her lessons. So she started out with one little boy and asked him, “What does Easter mean?” He promptly answered, “Candy and colored eggs.” A little disappointed she asked the next girl, and she promptly replied, “The Easter Bunny, of course!” Now the teacher was really getting discouraged that no one knew the real meaning of Easter but her spirits were lifted immediately as the next boy started his answer with, “Well, on Good Friday, Christ died on the cross, and they buried him in a cave.” He went on to say, “And on Easter, Christ comes out of the cave.” The teacher nodded with excitement and said, “And what does that mean for us?” The boy triumphantly finished, ”Well, if he sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter!”

In some Eastern Catholic churches, there is a tradition of telling jokes on Easter because our laughing symbolizes the fact that, with the resurrection, God has the last laugh on Satan, who thought he had won with Jesus’ death. But I think there is some serious wisdom in the little boy’s answer. If we look at what we are doing here at Mass as just a remembering of something that happened 2000 years ago, it might seem as if the resurrection is the end of the story. God became human as a little boy in Bethlehem. He grew up and spent 3 years walking around Israel proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. He was arrested, tortured, put to death on the cross and now he is risen from the dead. Cut to credits!

But we are not simply remembering an event that happened 2000 years ago. We are participants in an ongoing story. We will make that point strongly in a few minutes when we proclaim: “We proclaim your death O Lord, and profess your Resurrection. Until you come again.” The resurrection is not the end of the story, and we are not just observers in the story. In a sense we are in the middle of the story. Christ has died. In our baptism we have died with Christ, as Paul reminds us in that second reading. Our Lenten sacrifices were a reminder of that death that we shared. And out of the waters of baptism we rose with Christ.  Now we look forward to when Christ will come again.

I think that when most of us say (or hear) that Christ will come again, we tend to think in terms of some of the images of the book of Revelation, images of Jesus coming in glory on a cloud or some great beast, with a great sword separating out the good from the bad, doing away with war and poverty and disease and sickness. That is a great image but what does it have to do with us? Other than hoping that we are gathered together with the good crowd, there is not much for us to do. But if we listen to scripture and pay attention to our liturgical celebrations, we can see a different meaning to that phrase, one that Paul puts into words when he calls us the body of Christ. We start to see that this Christ who will come in glory has Jesus as its head but us as the arms and legs and heart.

For some reason known only to God, God has chosen human beings to be the instruments in his plan to bring creation to fulfillment. He has put the responsibility, and the power, to do away with wars and violence and abuse and disease into human hands.

With that fuller understanding of who this Christ is who is to come, our little boy’s understanding of Easter becomes more serious. At every moment in our lives, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. At every moment of our lives, we can look back and see the little deaths in our lives. And with Mary Magdalen and Peter and the other disciple that Jesus loved, we stand looking at this empty tomb, and at some level of our Christian faith, we say we believe that Christ has risen. But what happens next?

One possibility is that we look around and see our failings, the terrible things that people do in the name of God – the killing of people by terrorists around the world, or the terrible things people do when they forget who they are, like the abuse of children by clergy. And seeing that dark shadow, we run back in to the cave.

Or we can do what Jesus proclaimed when he walked around Israel and urged people to “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” Repent does not mean to dwell on our failings, on the darkness of sin. It means to turn around, to face back to God so that God’s light shines on us. Jesus came to reveal to us that God forgives us and wants us to live in peace and harmony. We have to choose which way we face because it will make all the difference in the world.

A mother brought her young child into church with her one afternoon as she dropped in for a quick prayer. As she tried to say a prayer, the boy kept pestering her with questions: what is that cross thing, why is there a candle lit by that gold box, why is it dark in here. Then he looked up at the sun streaming in through the stained glass windows filled with pictures of men and women. He asked his mom, “Who are those people up there?” “Those are the saints,” she replied. Next Sunday our little man was in Religious Ed class when the teacher announced that they were going to learn about the saints today. Well he could hardly contain himself, raising his hand and waving it. The teacher asked him what he was so excited about. “I know who the saints are”. So the teacher asked, “Who are they?” “They are the ones who let the light shine through them!”

So let’s laugh today, and let’s repent, turning our faces towards the light of God. And most of all, let’s let God’s light shine through us so there is no shadow, and winter will end right now!”

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