Sunday Sermon for April 20, 2014, Easter Sunday, Year A
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9
In the Book of Nehemiah (and that of Ezra) we read about how the priests and the scribes went through the crowds of the people who had gathered to hear the words of the Book of Deuteronomy telling them that it was it was a day of rejoicing in the Lord, a day holy to the Lord. If that was the case when a divinely inspired book was found, think of how much greater is the holiness and the subsequent rejoicing that should be ours when we consider the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
The deliberate choice our Lord made to go to the Cross on Good Friday is certainly the greatest act of love humanity has ever known, but His rising from the dead is the single greatest event in history. Unfortunately, for many people there seems to be little connection with the greatness of the event.
It may be that because we have no experience of anyone rising from the dead that it seems very distant for us. Modern medicine can resuscitate people who will have to die again, but none of us has ever experienced first hand what it means to be resurrected. I suspect, however, that our problem with the resurrection can be summarized in St. John’s comment at the end of today’s Gospel: we do not understand what it means to be resurrected.
We do not have to understand how the resurrection occurred, nor do we have to understand exactly what it will be like when we share in the glory of the Lord. What we do need to understand, however, is that, as St. Paul instructs us, we have been raised with Jesus. This being the case, we do need to realize that we have and deep and intimate connection to the resurrection.
It is through our baptism that we came to share in the death and resurrection of the Lord. This is not only because we died to self and put on Christ, but because we have become members of Christ and, therefore, we participate in everything that is His. His death was accepted for our sake, so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be redeemed. His resurrection was for our sake, so that death would have no power over us and that we could inherit eternal life.
These truths are already at work in us. This is why St. Paul tells us that we need to seek what is above, not what is on earth. This is a choice that needs to be made by each person. Being baptized causes a radical change within us, but it does not force us to live according to the new life God gives us.
I said above that Jesus made a deliberate choice to go to the Cross. We must do the same. This does not mean that we have to be physically crucified, but it means that we have to “be crucified” to the things of this world: materialism, titles, power, money, etc. It does not mean that you will not have a title or material things, it means not being attached to these things.
This, however, is not an end in itself, nor was the Cross of Christ an end in itself. It is for a greater purpose, hence the point of seeking those things which are above. If we would seek Heaven with the zeal that some people seek promotions, or to promote themselves, we would be Saints by now.
It is easy to seek after those things which we can see or grasp with our senses; it is hard to seek after those things that are unseen. Even though we cannot feel the resurrection at work in us, we can still be seeking to live according to this grace. St. Paul says that our life is hidden in Christ. This being the case, we have to enter into the depths of our hearts to begin to recognize this mystery taking place within us.
The more we can unite ourselves to Jesus in prayer, the more we will focus on Him and on doing His will. In other words, we will be seeking the things that are above. This requires going beyond the sensory level and into the spiritual. This can be difficult at first, especially since we cannot control what God might do within us. But the spiritual is far superior to the material, just as the resurrected body of our Lord was superior to His natural body.
We are at times so shortsighted that we actually mourn the loss of worldly things, but when we understand that letting them go will bring us to something beyond what we can imagine or understand, it will be Easter in us, a day of rejoicing, a day that is holy to the Lord.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.