Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Homily: "Easter Incentive"

All the kids in my family are all grown up now, so every year my mom and dad still try to find a way for us to take part in the annual Easter Egg Hunt. This is normally the stuff of kids, but we’ve learned that not only has my father gotten better at hiding, but my mother gives us incentives beyond what we expect. Every year the hype of the event gets bigger and bigger. She began by hiding dollar bills in the eggs, then lottery tickets, and last year there was a golden egg. My father once hid an Easter basket under the hood of my brother’s car, has hung them from the outside of our bedroom windows, and one year we had a mishap when he hid one in the oven. My parents will do anything to keep us in the game. Six full grown kids, a son-in-law, and three granddaughters literally tear the house apart, knocking picture frames off the wall, pushing each other, tipping over couches and chairs, laughing, and teasing each other over who has the most. Year after year they keep us coming back.

So maybe it took a little coaxing from your family or friends to get you here today. Sometimes we all need a little incentive. Maybe you reluctantly dragged your feet because you’ve done this before and maybe you didn’t get anything out of it. But here is the incentive - there is something great here, it is hidden, it is mystery.

Mary of Magdala went to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark. The darkness is a symbol of her unbelief. Throughout the Gospel of John – faith is symbolized through light. At first she thought that someone had taken the Lord from the tomb. Notice, there is a pattern of growth from here, a development in the objects that are seen. First Mary Magdala “saw the stone removed from the tomb.” (v.1) Then the Beloved disciple “Saw the burial cloths there.” (v. 5) Finally, Peter sees the same linen cloths as well as the “cloth that had covered his head… rolled up and set in another place.” (v. 7)

Can you imagine what they must have been thinking? Imagine all of the questions, all of the stirrings of their heart, all of their hopes lifting. They experienced a mix of faith, doubt, confusion, hope. Then we hear this line, “For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” (v. 9) Their understanding and belief in the resurrection would come to grow in the weeks to come as Jesus continues to reveal himself. It’s almost like they get it for a moment and then don’t. But they didn’t get it all on the day of his Resurrection, they had to continue to encounter him week after week as their faith and belief grew to where they could see and experience him in His Resurrected form.

The idea is that if we just come to mass on Easter Sunday and never return until Christmas we are not going to get it. So maybe there will be a moment in this liturgy where you will have some sense of the presence of God. And maybe like the disciples you’ve experienced this too, where you get it for a moment and then lose it. Maybe something tragic has happened that has caused you to question your faith. Maybe your faith has just grown tired and you need some incentive to come back. Maybe there is guilt from something you’re struggling with and you don’t feel worthy to be here. Maybe there is serious sin and darkness in your life that needs to be healed and redeemed. Whatever it is, God can work with it. The Sacraments are for this purpose. Go experience Him in confession. Next Sunday we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. Come and experience him in confession this week, call a priest make an appointment, go to your church on Saturday when they offer confession, check out and you can find confession times all over the diocese|page|1 And then come back next Sunday and receive Him at the altar. He’ll do whatever He can to keep you in. It’s a process and God knows what it is going to take for you to believe.

If you come here Sunday after Sunday, there will be developments in your faith. You will begin to see and notice and recognize and understand things that you didn’t before. As the opening prayer stated “Let our celebration today raise us up and renew our lives by the Spirit that is within us.” Your life can only make sense; suffering can only make sense, right here where we enter into the mystery of our faith.

So here is the incentive. Simon and the Beloved disciple ran to the tomb, because they knew there was something worthwhile to see there. It may not have been what they expected. It was empty except for a few burial clothes, but it stirred something in them.

Maybe you come into church and you feel empty. God will stir something in you. If you come here week after week, year after year, God will continue to release you from the bondage of sin, and here on earth you will begin to experience the new life of the resurrection. (Catechism 654) Sunday after Sunday, as you hear the Word of God, and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, you will catch another glimpse of the Resurrection and your faith will grow.

What will it take to bring you back? What do you need to see or experience to believe in the Resurrection? What do you need God to do so that you can experience Him right here in this Eucharist? Ultimately, it’s faith. And just by coming here you are expressing some notion of desire that you want to hope and believe in the Resurrection of Jesus which we celebrate this Easter Sunday.

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