Easter Sunday Homily and Sermon
Acts 10:34, 37-43 Col 3:1-4 (or 1 Cor 5: 6-8) Jn 20:1-9 (All A, B, & C)..We’re Winners!..
Making Our Baptismal Promises Meaningful; The Power of Easter Experience; The Risen Christ Today.No matter how we explain it, in the beginning, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters (Gen 1:1f). Then God created light, and the sky, the earth, the vegetation, the stars, the fish, the birds, all kinds of animals, and – as the final good gift, the most noble creatures of all – people. And God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good (Gen 1:31). The story of the human race from then on is less glorious – fall of Adam and Eve, their son Cain murdering his brother Abel, the sometimes perverse “People of God”, and the wars, pollution, destruction, murder, rape, robbery, and other evil that people have brought about ever since.
That new day came with the first Easter Sunday. The resurrection of Jesus was the most momentous occasion since the week of creation. Jokes are funny because the punch lines are so unexpected and delightful; our Lord’s resurrection is the punch line of the history of salvation.
New hope came with the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus the risen Lord by the Apostles, like the preaching of St Peter in today’s First Reading. On Good Friday the Church showed us a Pater who had denied even knowing Jesus, and who was reduced to tears at the realization of his failure. Here on Easter Sunday we see a different Peter; there are few more openly since confessions of faith than his today in all Scripture.
He typifies a boundary-breaking love for and faith in the risen Lord. Indeed, Faith and love are in the history of the church intimately connected. Faith involves an alignment of the heart, a commitment of loyalty and trust. The words for faith in the languages of the Bible don’t mean only, “belief” in the modern sense; to say “I Believe: meant “I commit myself to, I rest my heart upon, I privilege allegiance to.” The Latin credo, “I Believe,” is from cor, “heart”, as in the English “cordial”. So belief is an action word. For biblical writers and for us, the opposite of Faith is not doubt, but nothingness – nothing to give our heart to, nothing to live for, nothing to judge ourselves by.
In his Gospel, St Luke had written of Jesus’ mission as travelling to Jerusalem, where his most important lesions lay. Throughout his ministry, Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem (Lk 9:51) to work, to suffer, to die, and to rise. In the Acts of the Apostles, which Luke also wrote, he shows the Gospel message moving in accord with Christ’s command from Jerusalem, on a journey that will take it to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
So the book called the Acts of the Apostles represents a second journey of Jesus, working through Apostles who carry his Gospel message. The Book of Acts describes the risen life of Christ in his body, the Church. It is therefore fitting that, throughout the Easter season, the liturgy’s First Reading comes from Acts. The speeches in Acts, accurately reflecting the preaching of Peter and the other Apostles, provide the basis outline of the four Gospels – the essential facts about the ministry of Jesus, the death of Jesus, his resurrection, and the witness that Jesus is truly Lord. We, living centuries later, become Christians in exactly the same way as people did then –by hearing the testimony of others. The message – called the kerygma, or proclamation of God’s salvation – calls for our personal response.
Peter’s speech today is like the others, a little “creed” like the one we say at Mass and suitable to the Easter renewal of our baptismal promises that we make today after this homily. Peter says that God’s revelation of His plan for the destiny of humankind through Israel culminated in Jesus of Nazareth. The ministry of Jesus is an integral part of God’s revelation (v. 37). The coming of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus is an integral part of God’s revelation (v. 38).
The Apostles were witnesses (v. 39), giving testimony not only about Jesus’ resurrection, but also about his ministry. They were empowered to make clear the exact meaning and interpretation of his sayings and deeds to the developing Christian community, which is the bearer of the word of salvation, in the light of his death and resurrection. Despite Jesus’ goodness, the leaders performed an act of sheer horror by having him crucified – only to have God raise him up on the third day (v. 40) and to have him seen by enough witnesses to make this otherwise unbelievable event believable (v. 41).
Jesus had commissioned the Apostles to preach (v. 42) – a commission not only to the Twelve, but to every Christian. To fulfill our obligation means many things; not only words, but deeds and example. It means knowing not only the doctrines of our faith, but also the particular needs and temperaments of those we meet so as to make Jesus’ massage attractive to them. Peter’s speeches, for example, changed to fit his audience. Today, speaking to non-Jews, he emphasized the coming divine judgement; when he spoke to Jews, he appealed to their hope of Messiah. In both case, the biggest result was the offer of the forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ name (v. 43) – a removal of guilt that enables a new relationship with God and other people.
Because of the resurrection of Jesus, his followers have contributed to many ideas of our civilization – the principle of personal moral responsibility, for example, and the rule of tolerance, the rational for the brotherhood of all members of the human race, the basis for the exaltation of womankind, the standard of mercy, the principle of enthusiasm, the element of optimism, and new concepts of peace. In our lives we can continue to contribute such other areas as defined by the life and example of Jesus – the guarantees of Justice, esteem for human life, regard for law, the expressions of democratic ideals, reverence for the right of minorities.
The very beginning of the First Testament says humanity failed because we tried to be like God. At the close of the New Testament humanity is promised that we can be like God. What does Jesus promise that the temper promised but didn’t deliver? In a phrase, a new life. We strive for this, or we have nothing for which to strive. Without the challenge and the promise of Jesus the rational choice is that set forth by Paul (1Cor 15:32, quoting Is 22:13): “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
Our Christian life should be joyful. It may be perhaps compared to the egg. The Easter egg is a symbol of the resurrection, insofar as from the egg a new life may spring. This feast of Easter, more than any other of the year, is a day filled with a new life of enthusiasm praise, and rejoicing. Some people feel that they have little experience of the risen Christ. Perhaps the problem may be more one of recognition. Today we should pause to recognize that “heaven” is not a special place apart from our universe. “Heaven” is the universe, recognized as being in God. Let us resolve to lead a “heavenly” life on earth, witnessing God’s power and love. May these joyous reflections help to give us a happy Easter!