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Sunday, April 5, 2015
Easter Homily: Space Travel of the Heart
This is the first Easter my whole family is not going to be together. Many of you know I have a big family: six kids. The three girls are married, now my older brother Bobby is engaged, and I’m a priest, and we all have our own things going on. So my family will get together, but not all will be there. It’s the first time this has happened, and it’s causing a little bit of heartache and tension in the family. I think the desire for all of us is to be together. Even Fr. Martello, the last few months, has been in the nursing home, and it’s been hard not having him here with us. In a more profound way, though, he’s been with us through his prayer and through his celebration of the Eucharist.
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, left us a great gift in his writings. and the greatest of these was a three-part series he called Jesus of Nazareth. The first part focuses on the birth and infancy narratives found in the gospels, the second on his life from his baptism to the transfiguration, and the third on his entry into Jerusalem through his resurrection. One of the concepts the Holy Father develops can be translated “space travel of the heart.”
He talks about the ability we have to space-travel from our heart and in our hearts. How is it possible for all of us to travel in space and to be together from our hearts? Well, it’s possible through the mystery we celebrate today -- the resurrection. A problem of our modern world is that we have a tendency to separate God from the material. We figure everything on earth belongs to us and to science. God takes care of the spiritual. He’s out there. The reality, though, is that God is both, spiritual and material. Not only is he both spiritual and material, but he has complete power over the spiritual and material. Don’t forget, God brought us into creation. In the beginning, there was nothing. God spoke, and by his very word he brought about the heavens and the earth and all the rest of creation. Not only that, but he continues to create.
Sometimes I think we have this image that God created the world, then stepped aside and let it go. That’s not reality. Reality is that God continues to work with us in all of creation. There are, though, three significant moments, three moments where he does something especially extraordinary. He goes outside of what we can fathom; outside of how nature normally works.
The first of these moments is the virgin birth. When Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary, it was not by a man. It was not by man and woman coming together, which is the way nature would normally work. God did something extraordinary. The Holy Spirit came to Mary, and she conceived. She bore God in her womb, and He was born into humanity.
The second moment is the resurrection. It never happened before that someone proclaimed he would suffer and die, then rise, and it actually happened. When the disciples went to the tomb, they discovered not only that it was empty, but that the burial cloths were still there. It was as if someone had stolen the body, but they wouldn’t have removed the burial cloths, then taken the naked body. They would have taken everything, and yet the burial cloths were there and the 10-ton stone had been removed. He rose from the dead. God did something beyond what we could fathom. He took this body that had died and, instead of allowing it to decay and become corrupt, he raised Jesus body, mind, soul, and divinity into heaven. At that very moment, the material world as we know it completely changed. He brought matter. He brought Jesus. He brought his body to himself.
Finally is the Eucharist. If God has control over matter; if God entered into humanity in the incarnation; if God can raise Jesus from the dead … God can also take the matter of bread and wine and transform them into his very essence -- into the body and blood of Jesus.
Pope Benedict once said that “Indeed matter itself is remolded into a new type of reality. The man Jesus, complete with his body, now belongs totally to the spirit of the divine and eternal. From now on, spirit and blood, humanity and divinity, have come together and are joined. God has complete power over all of creation, and he is working in all of creation.”
What that means is that there is unthinkable closeness between God and us. No longer is it us down here and God up there. God is united with us and with all these things -- the virgin birth, the resurrection, and the Eucharist -- because God wants to be in us, close to us, with us. God is present.
In Jesus’ resurrection, matter itself is remolded into this new reality. Since we ourselves have no experience with this, we can’t understand it. It’s not surprising; it oversteps the boundaries of what we’re able to conceive. In reality, when Jesus rose from the dead, he didn’t depart from us. When Jesus rose from the dead, he took the material world, his body with us [?], into heaven. Jesus is with the Father in heaven, and what does that mean for us? We are with the Father in heaven. Because Jesus has shared his life and his matter and his spirit with us, we are with God the Father. The reality is that we can only experience this if we live in the resurrection. We now only experience being with God if we are people who have been baptized and live in the spirit of the resurrection.
So those three things again -- the virgin birth, the Eucharist, and the resurrection -- came to us because God wanted to be close to us. He wanted to be close to you.
For 33 years, God could be touched. God could be held. God could be hugged. God could be embraced. [Is embracing the same thing as hugging?] God could be heard. But when those 33 years were over, he didn’t want the relationship to end, so when he died, he rose from the dead so he could be with us always. But he didn’t want it to end there; he wanted to be even closer to us, so we have the Eucharist. Through the power of the resurrection, through God having control over the material world, these simple gifts of bread and wine become his body and blood, and we get to be with him. This is what Pope Benedict calls space travel of the heart.
When we live in the resurrection, we are not limited by the material. That means that when we receive the body and blood of Christ and we enter and become Jesus, we are not only able to be with him, but we are able to be with our family from whom we may be separated. You get to be with your loved ones. You may have people who are serving in the war. You may have people you’re estranged from. You may have family living across the country. In the Eucharist and the power of the resurrection, you get to experience this space travel of the heart. You get to be with them.
Maybe you have lost someone over the last year, or more recently. Maybe you have a loved one who has died and is in heaven.
Because we receive the Eucharist, we experience this space travel of the heart. Then suddenly, we get to be with them, and they get to be with us. All of the Sacraments help us to experience this transformed matter: God taking water. God taking oil. God taking bread and wine. God taking people and transforming them into the Resurrection. And ultimately, the space travel of the heart allows us not only to be with those we love, but to be with God. Then, because of the Resurrection, God is always with us. Jesus is always with us. He is never apart from us.
In the Funeral Liturgy, every time I celebrate a funeral, I talk about this for those of us that believe life is changed not ended. This life is now transformed. When Jesus died and rose from the dead, He did not go away from us. He actually came closer to us. I just invite you, if you feel distant from God, if you have been away from the Church, if you have been away from the Sacraments, if you have been away from Christ, maybe, right now, He is calling you into this life of the Resurrection. Maybe, right now, He is calling you to take your body, and your matter, and transform yourself into this reality of the Resurrection so that you can be with Him. This is what we celebrate today on Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of the body. When we experience the receiving of the body and blood of Christ, not only do we die with Him and suffer with Him like we have for the last 40 days, but suddenly, beyond comprehension, we rise with Him. We live as Christ. Christ is in us and we are in Him. We become the Resurrection.
We, too, can experience this space travel of the heart. That is what we celebrate during this Easter season.
That is what we celebrate in the mystery of the Resurrection, the birth of Jesus, and ultimately, in the Eucharist that we share.