March 25, 2016

HOMILY FOR THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD -EASTER SUNDAY (MARCH 27)


HOMILY FOR THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD -EASTER SUNDAY  (MARCH 27)

Ronald Stephens
Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

Easter is the ultimate feast of the Church year, yet somehow in our culture it is not treated as important as Christmas, for example, or some other feasts. And yet, we realize that if there were no Resurrection, we would be dealing with a holy man who lived and died and left lovely, if somewhat hard, messages for us to consider. The Resurrection raises Jesus’ death to miraculous, but also to a victory over the forces of evil in the world.
It took some time for the Easter miracle to register in the minds of the followers of Jesus and it wasn’t until Pentecost that they really understood. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles today, Peter is preaching a sermon in which he was finally able to put together everything that had happened with Jesus in line with the Prophets and what had been foretold. He determines that Jesus is “the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead”…and that “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sin through his name.”
This theology or understanding of the meaning of the Resurrection came when the Spirit came upon them at Pentecost and this understanding which we still believe today came very early in the understanding of the Apostles and the church.
In his letter to the Colossians today, St Paul develops a further theology from the Resurrection – that we must keep our minds on the things that are spiritual because we, too, have died with Christ, and we too will be resurrected and “revealed with him in glory”.
In the Gospel of Luke today we hear the story of the disciples who were on the road to Emmaus, probably escaping from the dangers of Jerusalem for the followers of Christ. Jesus comes to the men in a resurrected body which they don’t recognize, but they gossip and talk on the way. They tell Jesus all about what people have been saying happened, that Jesus was buried but wasn’t in his tomb the next day and that women had come to visit and found only an angel who told them that Christ rose. This was very hard to believe. It is hard for us to believe it today as well. So Jesus began to teach them on the way. He explained how the death and resurrection were foretold by the Prophets and he opens their eyes to mysteries that had not understood. They asked him to stay the night with them because they were so entranced by what he had to say, and at table that night, when Jesus blessed the bread and he gave it to them, they finally had their eyes opened and recognized that this was Jesus. As quickly as they understood, Jesus disappeared from them. They gathered their strength to return to Jerusalem where they found Peter and the apostles gathered. When they arrived they were told that Peter had seen Jesus, that he was alive. Then they recounted to the others their meeting of Jesus, verifying all their hopes.
It is difficult to believe in miracles though we all pray for them. Sometimes we see something happen that can only be explained as miraculous. But most of the time it is difficult for us to believe in unnatural things happening. I think that many Christians hide from the reality of the Resurrection because it is miraculous and doesn’t make scientific sense. But the accounts that we have in the Scriptures of people who were also incredulous and changed their minds ought to help us to do so as well. To believe in something we must get our minds around it, study it and understand it. To believe in something miraculous we also need to rely on the experiences of others who were involved in the event. That is why it is so important that we had numerous witnesses at different times all saying the same thing. Jesus is alive! We have the accounts of the women, the account of Mary Magdalene, the account of Peter, the account of the disciples going to Emmaus we read today. These accounts can strengthen our belief so that as Paul says, we can keep our minds on heaven and what we must do to be sure we are resurrected with Christ as well. Christ is risen. Christ is living. Christ is with us in the Eucharist. We are part of him and he, us. Let us celebrate this mystery today as we re-enact the sacrifice of the Mass and strengthen our belief that we, too, will be resurrected with he Lord.
This is the Good News of Easter and the happy news I offer you today.