21 April 2019Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of the Lord Cycle C - John 20, 1-9

Diphtheria once was common in the United States. A tale speaks of a couple having the horror of seeing three of their children die from the foul disease. The parents were the directors of the Sunday School. It fell to them on Easter Sunday to read the Gospel of the Resurrection shortly after their children's death. There were many tears in the congregation from those knowing of their loss. But the parents never lost their composure. After the Liturgy, a boy said to his father, "Dad, they must really believe in the Resurrection." The father said, "Son, every Christian does." And the boy responded, "But not the way they do, Dad." My favorite Easter announcement I found in the National Catholic Reporter. It read in bold, large letters: "Something happened that Easter morning that makes our bad Fridays good and our lives a risk worth taking." Indeed we come here today to celebrate what one preacher has correctly called "the Greatest Show on Earth." Easter is God's way of saying to each of us with a very large smile, "Let's party!" And of course we should. I heard of a TV reporter interviewing a group of properly excited youngsters in New York City's Rockefeller Center.

He chose one six year old and asked patronizingly, "What does the Easter bunny mean to you?" The boy without a second's hesitation replied, "Jesus died for our sins and then rose from the dead." The stuttering reporter quickly asked, "But what does that have to do with the Easter bunny?" The boy said very simply, "Nothing." The interview had not been live but obviously taped earlier in the day. One wonders why the TV channel chose to show this particular segment almost proudly on the evening news. One would think the reporter would like to hide a knockout punch from a mere child. The only plausible explanation is that the TV people in their wisdom wanted to reveal to their enlightened listeners how Christians, even the youngest among us, miss the real meaning of Easter. Such a worthy as Winston Churchill had no doubt on the subject of the Resurrection of the Christ as well as his own. I learned this from watching the 1994 funeral services for President Richard Nixon in California on the television. Billy Graham was one of the speakers.

Dr Graham reported on one of the lines in Sir Winston's will. England's one-time Prime Minister stipulated that he wished one bugler to stand in a tower of St Paul's Cathedral and blow taps. In another tower, he wanted a second bugler to respond by blowing reveille. Nor did America's own Ben Franklin entertain anything but certainty on this question. This was the splendid epitaph he wrote for himself: "The body of B Franklin, printer, (like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and gilding) lies here, food for worms. But the work shall not be lost; for it will (as he believed) appear once more, in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the Author." Mr Franklin was simply exulting in what the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins would later call "the glory of Christ's body risen." The Easter Sunday sequence from the Roman Missal sums up the entire scene in beautiful language. "Death and life were locked together in a unique struggle. Life's Captain died: now He reigns, no more to die."

Henry Van Dyke has penned, "Some people are so afraid of death that they never begin to live." Hopefully, that will never be said of anyone of us here. For "faith in Christ knows that the best is yet to come." This Easter take time to think; it is the source of power. Take time to read; it is the source of wisdom. Take time to pray; it is the greatest power on earth. Take time to love and be loved; it is God's gift to you. Take time to be friendly; it brings happiness. Take time to laugh; it is music for the soul. Take time to give; it is too short a life to be selfish. Take time to work; it is the price of success. Take time to help the poor; it opens the door to Heaven. Take time to listen; it may be God speaking. (Author unknown)

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino

Easter Sunday: Vehicles of Divine Mercy

In our church as well as in many churches there is a Divine Mercy Image. It is fitting to have a continual reminder of the Mercy of God. Sometimes we get so bogged down in the events of the world that we forget that God is in charge. He has the answers to the questions that plague us as a world, as a country and as individuals. On the bottom of the painting there are the words, "Jesus, I trust in you." No matter what difficulties confront us, we need to trust in the Lord. His mercy is greater than our fondest hope. He came into our world to restore life to a people that had freely chosen death. Before Jesus, there was no spiritual life, there was only physical life. The spiritual had been rejected. God had been pushed aside. Turning from the Lord of Life, people turned towards death. Mankind lived in a state of life that was purely physically. We call this state, original sin. Of course, some people were committed to serving God, and did everything they could to live good moral lives. They would be saved from original sin by the Lord who, as the Creed tells us, descended into hell before he rose again on the third day. There were and are many people who do not know Christ but who are saved by their desire to serve God.

We call their baptism without water the baptism of desire. A merciful God does not reject good people. But even good people cannot provide spiritual life for themselves. All people need the Mercy of God to pour His Life upon them. We are freed from original sin by our baptism. Baptism isn’t just a liturgical action; it is the reception of the Life of God. We baptize our babies because we want them to share in the Life of God that is the center of our families. We baptize adults, because they have made the commitment to live the Life that they are receiving. The world desperately needs the Life of God. The world is in anguish as it is attacked by the forces of evil originating from the evil one, and perpetuated by hatred and bigotry and the determination to create a god out of materialism. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen concludes his sermons on the Seven Last Words by saying that Jesus brought life to the world.

Now he tells us to spread it. John Newton understood this mandate. He was a fervent Christian preacher of 18th century England. His sermons attracted thousands. But he was not always committed to Christ. In fact, he was a promoter of the world of death. Newton was born in 1725 and impressed into the hard life of a British seaman serving on a man of war. He was abused and flogged. In 1748, he requested that he be exchanged into service on a slave ship. In time he became the captain of his own slaver. He did everything he could to make a profit on the sale of human lives. He was not concerned about those lives that were lost in the horrible holding racks. If the cramped conditions resulted in many of the slaves dying, the profit from the increased number of slaves that could be held there would make up for the loss. He was even less concerned that the men, women and children in the hold were kidnaped, stolen from their families. The slaves were chattel, good only for whatever profit they could bring. He was an inhuman profiteer and a devotee of the god of materialism. But on a homeward voyage, while he was attempting to steer the ship through a violent storm, he experienced what he was to refer to later as his "great deliverance." He recorded in his journal that when all seemed lost and the ship would surely sink, he exclaimed, "Lord, have mercy upon us." And the ship was saved. Later in his cabin he reflected on what he had said and began to believe that God had addressed him through the storm. Grace had begun to work on him. Newton spent the rest of his life serving God, fighting slavery, and proclaiming God’s Mercy.

We still sing the hymn he composed, Amazing Grace. Newton inspired William Wilberforce who successfully fought for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire over thirty years before slavery was abolished in the United States. John Newton received God’s mercy. He was baptized, and he received the life of God. Then he spent the rest of his life spreading the Life of the Lord. Back to the Divine Mercy Image. There are two streams flowing from the heart of the Lord in the picture. One is white; one is red. The white stream represents baptism and the life we receive through baptism. The red stream represents the blood of the Lord. This is the blood that was shed for us to destroy the grip of death on the world. Death was conquered by death. Jesus’ physical death resulted in the New Life of the Spiritual. The red stream represents the Blood of the Eucharist. The death of Christ nourishes us through the Eucharist so we can overflow with the life of the Lord. "Overflow in me, My Lord," Matt Maher sings, "Let your people bless you as your cup is poured; overflow in me My Lord." © CCLI License #2368115 And Mary Magdalene went to the tomb looking for Jesus who was crucified. But he wasn't there. He had been raised. Death has been conquered. The new world has begun. The celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord is the celebration of our hope, our joy, our sharing in the New Life of Christ. Easter is the celebration of the Mercy of God.

Jesus Christ is Risen from the dead, and so are we! "Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with Him through baptism into death so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life." That is the first New testament reading fo the Easter Season. It proclaims our union with the death and resurrection of the Lord. He has called us out of this darkness and death and has given us each the ability to make his presence real for others. He has called us to share His Divine Mercy. The tomb is empty, Mary Magdalene. But the world is full. The Savior Lives. He looks upon the world in the grip of death with all its pain and suffering and he has mercy on us. He gives us His Life. He calls us to share this Life with all around us. May we have the courage to be vehicles of Divine Mercy.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Let's Rebuild (April 21, 2019)

Bottom line: Let's rebuild our lives. Let's rebuild our Church.

Happy Easter! For those visiting, I'm Fr. Phil Bloom. This is my 10th Easter as your pastor, your spiritual father. This Holy Week I've been asking people to fill out Connect Cards. A good number returned them on Palm Sunday and I've started communicating with them via Flocknotes: brief messages I send out 5 days a week between 7:15 and 7:30 am. Some people like "Morning Joe"; this is "morning Bloom". I am glad you are here for Easter. This is our most important day. Bishop Bob Barron said, "The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the be-all and end-all of Christian faith. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, all us priests and bishops may as well go home and get honest jobs. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead, all who stand and profess Christian faith are basically crazy." St. Paul said something similar, "If Jesus is not risen from the dead, our preaching is in vain and we are the most pitiable of all people."

By his resurrection Jesus has conquered Satan, sin and death. Jesus in his glorified body has broken the bonds of time and space. That's why he can appear to Paul on the road to Damascus. That's why he can become present in the bread and wine that become his Body and Blood. Some of you remember Star Trek. One of its appeals was that it imagined overcoming time and space. You know, "Beam me up, Scotty." When I was young, some would say I looked like Captain Picard. I've always wanted to say, "Make it so." But you know, I've been given a great power. The words I say over the bread and wine transform them into the Eucharist - Jesus' Body and Blood. Of course, not my power, but the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist connects with the tragedy we witnessed on Monday - the devastation of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Perhaps you heard about Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier who bravely entered the burning cathedral. He did it to rescue the relics of Jesus and the saints such as St. Louis. But much more important, to rescue the Blessed Sacrament - the bread which is Jesus' Body.

For us the Eucharist has greater value even than Notre Dame Cathedral. Remember Bishop Barron saying that if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, we priests may as well go home and get honest jobs. We could say something similar about the Notre Dame Cathedral. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, Notre Dame is just one more museum. But you know most people who entered Notre Dame didn't think it was simply one more museum. That's why people - from wealthy billionaires to humble workers; Catholics, Protestants, Jews, even atheists - have said they will pledge for the restoration of Notre Dame. What happened on Monday - Monday of Holy Week - I take as sign. Like the fire disfigured Notre Dame cathedral, just so sin has disfigured our church - especially hideous sins of abuse of children by men consecrated to God, then covered up by bishops. These sins have devastated our church. But I can say this, we will rebuild. In the bulletin I have something about our efforts to guarantee protection of any child in our care. I know we have lost trust.

We want to regain it, not for our glory but because of Jesus. The best analysis I have seen was by pope emeritus Benedict XVI. I encourage you to read his reflections on the abuse crisis. I refer to it in my bulletin article. Benedict writes as a man with a burden of sorrow, but also trust in God. He writes as a father deeply concerned with the souls of his children. He's not trying to shift the blame as some headlines insinuated. He wants to call us back to Jesus who has a simple, but effective plan for each one of us. I'll be talking about that during Easter Season: God's plan that we see in the Risen Jesus. It's a simple two-step plan. I'll go into more details next Sunday. For today we recognize that Jesus' resurrection is the be-all and end-all of our faith. We preach Christ crucified only because we know Jesus rose from the dead.

In the Eucharist we worship and receive the Risen Jesus. Our church buildings from Notre Dame to St. Mary of the Valley have meaning because of the resurrection. Our lives have worth ultimately because of the resurrection. I don't expect anyone to take this in all at once. Today it's enought to go to the tomb of Jesus. It is empty. If you go to the tomb of Mohamed, it contains his mortal remains. Same with the Buddha or Confucius. But the tomb of Jesus is empty. Today is a day of wonder and renewal. In a few moments I will invite you to renounce sin and profess your faith. Let's rebuild our lives. Let's rebuild our Church. As we heard in the Sequence: Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life attaining. Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Easter Sunday

This morning we celebrate the great feast of Easter. It is the high-point of the liturgical year. We commemorate the anniversary of the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Of course, this is something we do every week when on Sunday, the first day of the week, we celebrate the Eucharist as a whole community. Jesus rose on the first day of the week and so we keep it as our day of rest. But once a year we celebrate the resurrection big-time. We work our way through the season of Lent which is for us a time of increased prayer and fasting and then we observe the sequence of events which led up to the resurrection namely, the entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the arrest, trial and scourging of Jesus, his death on the Hill of Calvary and then in a blaze of light we celebrate the resurrection. It is as if we insert ourselves into those events which took place almost two millennia ago. It is as if we were there. It is as if we are actually experiencing those events at first hand. And through the action of the liturgy we are deeply moved as we witness what happened to Jesus during that most momentous week. We identify with him in his suffering and we mourn him in his death.

But on this most beautiful morning we rejoice. We rejoice as we recall how Christ rose from the dead, we rejoice as we witness the emptiness of the tomb and we rejoice in the knowledge that he appeared to Mary Magdalen and the other disciples. Of course, we also realise the consequences of his resurrection. We know that by his death and resurrection Christ has wiped clean the slate for us. He has washed away our sins and, once our earthly existence is over, he invites us to join him in his heavenly Kingdom. This invitation is not unconditional, of course, it does depend on our sorrow for sin and our determination to live as best we can in the way that he wants. But for us to be given such a wonderful gift by such a loving Saviour is something that fills our hearts with joy and thanksgiving. So today is a celebration, today is a day of joy, it is a day of thanksgiving. After the long days of Lent we can now rejoice; rejoice that the victory over sin has been won and rejoice that the promises of God have been fulfilled.

I guess that today a lot of chocolate will be consumed and nice dinners will be enjoyed. Maybe there will be Easter Egg hunts and surely there will be plenty of family time spent together. Maybe relatives will be coming or perhaps you will go to visit them. This is as it should be, this is how we celebrate a feast. But we must not allow our enjoyment to obscure what this great day is all about. We must realise that the first Easter Day was the most decisive intervention of God into our world. We know that there was an enormously long lead-up taking very many centuries and which included other interventions by God such as the Great Flood and the Exodus. We know too that God sent a good number of Prophets to teach his people, even if most of them were mistreated by the people. But eventually he sent his only Son into the world to bring us the Good News of the Gospel. Having maltreated the Prophets, the so-called Chosen People went on to do the most despicable thing that has ever happened: they put to death God’s only son. And how does God respond?

Instead of unleashing his wrath, he turns the tables on us and wipes out our sins and opens for us the road to heaven. We have indeed an inexplicable God, we have a God who breaks all the rules, we have a God who in the face of a catastrophe turns it into the greatest possible good for mankind. This is the reason we rejoice; this is the reason we celebrate. We exult in the fact that God loves us despite the fact of our human race doing its very worst. We glory in the fact that he loves us in the face of humanity’s complete rejection of him. As we mark this great feast, we realise that God loves us because we are his creation and he wants to share his life with us. We praise and thank him for what was achieved on that first Easter Day, we carry this Good News to the people around us and we celebrate and delight in that fact that we have such a great and loving God.

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