In February, My youngest sister Sheri gave birth to my Nephew Aiden. It was one of those long deliveries where she got to the Hospital in the morning and didn’t have him until just before midnight.
Because it was so late all the extended family had gone home and it was just my parents and the six of us kids. My sister wanted all of her brothers and sisters there. Since she is a single mother, my two other sisters and my mother got to be in the birth room with Sheri. Outside in the waiting area were the guys.
There was a little scare because his heart stopped and my mother said that Sheri asked everyone to pray, what would you like us to pray? “The Hail Mary” Sheri yelled. It occurred to me later that we mirrored the masculine of what was happening with the women in the waiting room. My two brothers and I were praying with my father while my two sisters and mother were praying with Sheri. My father was quite and panicking and the women were calm and diligent coaxing a newborn baby out of the womb.
We, the guys didn’t actually get to see the birth, and from what “Coach” said, aka my sister Christie, we were better off being outside.
I was just talking to a delivery Doctor and he said that he read an article done by scientist that by all physical means it’s impossible for a woman’s body to give birth to a baby. So I’m sure for those of you that have been through it, know what a difficult and messy process birth is.
The first time I saw my new nephew, Aiden, he was cleaned and beautiful. This tiny little baby, this new life, this little boy was now really here in our world. I wonder if that’s what the disciples felt the first time they saw the resurrected Lord.
When we all were allowed in we gathered around her bed to see him for the first time the nurse took a picture of our family together.
For some reason God had chosen the women to see Aiden in advance. And from what I saw of my father crying and nervous outside, maybe it is better that we weren’t in there.
A month later I would have a very different but equally powerful moment. I had been called to the house of a parishioner that was dying. The hospice nurse said it wasn’t immediate, but that I should come within the week. It was one of those rare moments where I actually had time before my next meeting so I went to the house right away. When I got there almost all of the kids and grandkids were home, some outside, some in the kitchen, his wife at the kitchen table and one of his sons sitting in a recliner by his bedside.
The dying man was pretty sedated and not very responsive, but I’ve been told and always remind the family that the hearing is one of the last organs to go. So we gathered together around his bed and I began to pray the Last Rites. I spoke the words of the Apostolic Pardon into his ears: "Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May He open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy." Then had his family lay their hands on him, I anointed him with the Oil of the Sick, sang the litany of saints, and together we commended him to God.
I drove back to the rectory and was getting ready to go the meeting, it hadn’t been 10 minutes when the phone rang and they told me that he had died. When I got back to the house the family was there grieving. At the same time there was also a very strong sense of the powerful moment that had just happened and the realization that these sacred Rites of the church had actually allowed him to die very quickly and peacefully.
A Few minutes later, one of the sons who wasn’t there came in to discover the news that his father was dead. He had missed the actual moment. He came in late only to see the looks on his family’s faces that his father had died. The son broke down and wept running into the room where his father was. Days later I would gather the family around his body once more as we celebrated the funeral and laid him to rest.
I can’t help but think that in both of these moments, the birth of my nephew and the death of this parishioner, I wasn’t actually there for the moment of transition. I wasn’t actually in the room when my nephew was born, nor was I at the house at the moment of the man’s passing. It was only before and after that I got to witness the wondrous birth into new life.
Something very similar happened in the resurrection. None of the disciples would be there for the moment of the Resurrection. The last glimpse of Jesus would be when they covered his dead body in the shroud and laid him in the tomb. The next they would see him, he was already raised from the dead, in His Glorified body, and the tomb was empty.
The questions can be asked: “Why didn’t anyone get to see? Why wasn’t anyone allowed to be there when Jesus was raised from the dead?”
God, for some reason in His divine providence kept that intimate moment of rebirth within the Heart of the Trinity.
We didn’t get to see it. The disciples didn’t get to see it. Even the women, who never left his side, didn’t get to see it.
John the Evangelist accounts only the moment of discovery:
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
Peter and the beloved disciple, when they came to the tomb, saw only the burial clothes there and
“the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
Like us men in the waiting room of the hospital and the son who missed his father’s death. What happened in the tomb when Jesus was raised from the dead was probably beyond what we could handle. Indeed it is the Paschal Mystery. Even the disciples did not yet understand the Scripture that “he had to raise from the dead.”
The disciples are left grasping and searching for the meaning. And so it is with us. At the Resurrection, and at all moments of birth and death, we stand in awe at the mystery… so far beyond what we can comprehend.
In the days to come after the Resurrection we hear in the Acts of the Apostles:
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
Some of us have seen him. Really some of us have experienced Him in the Resurrected form. Some of us do know what it is to live the life of the Resurrection. For those of you that have, in a special way you are to be witnesses. For those of you who really do believe that when we come here today it’s not just bread and wine that we receive, but His Body and Blood. For those of you who live a life of deep prayer, love, service, joy, and above all relation with Jesus, it is up to you to share your experience for those of us who have not yet met him or at least realize that we have met him.
Many of you will come to mass today that may only come once or twice a year. My challenge to you is to ask someone who comes Sunday after Sunday, lives their faith deeply, who really believes in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, who truly knows and walks with Jesus, ask them what this life is like.
He may be stirring something in your heart right now because chances are you have had these moments in your life and they were real. Each and every one of us probably has had some mystical experience of Jesus. We just don’t recognize it for what it is, or more so we don’t recognize Him.
We need to continue to eat and drink with Him because there is no life without Him. We will never get to experience the joys of life, the deep meaning that comes with birth, rebirth, and the resurrection unless we come to gather at the Eucharist each and every Sunday of our lives.
If your faith has become dead... If you can’t remember the last time you have really experienced the Lord. If you find yourself in desolation, sadness, despair. If life is not everything that God desires for you… come back to Him.
Come back to the Eucharist. Next Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday, a Sunday where all are called back to experience the Mercy of God. Come back to confession. Come back to the Sacraments.
Allow yourself to experience Jesus in Word and Sacrament, in the depth of prayer, and in this community of believers.
You may have missed out or been away because of any number of reasons. But you don’t have to miss out on any more.
And just as my sister wanted all of her brothers and sisters gathered around her as she gave birth to her son, and just as the entire family desired to be around their father as he died, so does Jesus desire to have all of us, brothers and sisters, around Him at this alter as he invites to step right now into Eternal Life.