4 April 2021Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley

Easter Sunday - Cycle B - John 20:1-9

Listen to an Easter parable. The father was in a foul mood. He wanted to attend the Easter Liturgy with his wife and three children. Sunday worship with his family was special for him. He believed in the dictum that teaches that the family that worships together stays together. But he was the new manager of a fast-food restaurant. The owner, anticipating a large crowd, ordered him to work Easter Sunday.

He had no choice. Furthermore, he needed the manager's job badly. His children required a lot of food and clothing. He swallowed his disappointment.

However, the manager had to concede his employer was correct. The people looking for Easter Sunday breakfast were double the usual number. Before noon he found himself tired. From the crowds coming in the front door, he saw no relief. If anything, he could use a few more counter-clerks. He felt guilty getting bad-tempered with several customers. They had grown impatient at the long wait. He sensed too that his anger arose from his envy that they were free and he was not. Some of them had their children clutching their precious Easter bunnies.

The young man, who was next in line, was wearing a gold cross around his neck. He politely said to the manager, "Two orders of scrambled eggs please with a double order of bacon and sausage, whole wheat toast, two fresh orange juices, two large coffees." Then he said, "Please put each breakfast on a separate tray, but give me the check for both."

The manager assembled the breakfast order for the pleasant man. He presented the trays to him and said, "$15.53." The manager was giving the man his change for $20. At that point, the fellow, dressed in workingman's clothes, said, "Please give the change and the second tray to the man behind me." Then he disappeared into the large crowd. It was the last he saw of him.

The manager saw the man behind his last customer. He was dressed in old clothing, needed a shave, and was carrying what appeared to be his belongings. They were spilling over from two shopping bags. He looked exhausted. He appeared as though he would be lucky to have the few coins needed for a senior coffee.

The manager gave the surprised man the second heaping tray and the change from the $20. He smiled at him. It was his first genuine smile that morning. He whispered his benefactor was the fellow who had just preceded him. The old man looked confused but delighted. His Easter Sunday had been made. For this beggar, the Christ had indeed risen. The good news was very good. He would have a good breakfast. He was tempted to shout ALLELUIA.

Wasn't this impulsive gesture of the workingman what the Easter Jesus is really all about? The Christian truckdriver was "walking the talk." The manager recalled the line someone had recently spoken to him: "I can't save the world, but I can send a poor man a pizza."

The resurrected Jesus had come to that fast-food shop in the person of the young truckdriver. He was driving an eighteen wheeler. He too was away from his family on Easter.

The manager realized the driver had touched not only the hungry old man down on his luck but also himself. He had transformed his shop into a cathedral. The work day passed quickly after that. He mused on the aphorism that while it is not easy to become an Easter Christian, it sure is easy to start.

When he got home tired that night, his three year old embraced him and shouted, "Daddy, daddy, we saw the Easter Jesus in church." As he picked up the child, he kissed her warmly. Then he whispered to her with a large smile, "I saw Him too, Dora."

As he got down on his knees for his night prayers, he thanked the risen Jesus for sending both men into his shop that Easter Sunday. For a fleeting moment, he wondered whether the poor man had been the resurrected Jesus Himself. But he dismissed that notion as much too grandiose. But was it?

After all, is there not a story that the thirteenth century Francis of Assisi once had been asked for a coin by a beggar? Francis was coming from Easter services. He embraced the beggar warmly, called him "my brother," and gave him several coins. As Francis left the poor man, he turned back to wave. He saw Jesus Himself standing where the beggar had stood. He waved at Francis with a smile. There was a huge bleeding wound in His hand.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino

The Solemnity of the Resurrection of the Lord, Easter: The New World

One of my favorite classical pieces is Anton Dvorak's Symphony #9, the New World Sympathy. Let me begin by reflecting on the epoch that Dvorak was depicting in this symphony. First of all, Anton Dvorak was born in Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic, in 1841. He became popular in Germany and then in England in the 1880's. In 1892 he became the Director of the New York National Conservatory. During this time he wrote his 9th Symphony which he entitled, From the New World. He wrote from America at a time when thousands and thousands of people from Ireland, Italy, Germany, and Poland were migrating from the homes their ancestors lived in for centuries to find a new life and a new world. 

My grandparents were part of this immigration. Perhaps your grandparents or great grandparents were also on those long lines on Ellis Island, still sick from the sea voyage, frightened by the sights around them, wondering what was going to become of them in this strange new land.

It is hard to imagine the sacrifices they had to endure. There was the sea, the language, the search for a place to live, a job in a hostile job market. They were accustomed to receiving respect in their home towns and villages. They were belittled and insulted by many in America. Still, they endured all. Why? They wanted a better life for their children and grandchildren. It was more than their not wanting their children to go hungry. They wanted their children to be able to break out of the silent caste system of Europe. They wanted their children to become professionals if they could. They wanted their children to have the best of lives without any external limitations. So they sacrificed their own positions of respect in their community, their own homes, their own countries, their futures, all for the sake of a new world for their children.

Jesus the Christ longed for a New World for God's children. He longed for a world where they would no longer be confined in a mortal prison by hatred, by paganism, by materialism. He grieved over people who were like sheep without a shepherd. Their lives were pointless. They wanted meaning but could not find meaning. In this way their lives were not that much different from the lives of many people of our time. Modern people spend millions of dollars on self-help books. They go to gurus. They give themselves over to modern forms of Buddhism, thinking that they can find happiness and peace within themselves. But they end up with nothing. They work much harder than they need to in order to make enough money to own everything this old world can produce. And they end with nothing of lasting value. 

Jesus wants to lead all of God’s children to a New World, a world which would give meaning and happiness to their lives. But the journey to the New World would take sacrifice. A Tremendous Sacrifice from a Tremendous Lover. And so Jesus allowed the world to do its worse to Him. The terrible sacrifice took place on the cross on Good Friday. The New World was proclaimed on Easter Sunday. Those who accept Jesus would be given a new life, a spiritual life, an eternal life. The prophecy of Hosea 6:2 is fulfilled. It is a prophecy that we seldom hear quoted but it means everything to us: “On the third day he will raise us up that we might live before Him.”

Jesus invites us to join Him on the journey to the New World. This journey demands that we also sacrifice. It demands that we reject the old, dead way of life. The journey demands that we accept being alone in a world full of mockers. They tell us that we are wasting our time, our money and our energy on religion. They say that fewer and fewer people are believing. We tell them that we would rather be in a minority with Jesus than in a majority that rejects Him. We suffer from others. We also suffer from our own selfishness. We suffer, we sacrifice, even to the point of death with Jesus. We endure much so we can have a New Life in the New World of the Lord not just for ourselves, but for our children. For if we do nothing more in our lives than lead our children to the Lord, then our lives have been a total success and have had infinite value.

"Are you not aware that we who were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Through baptism into his death we were buried with him so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father we too might live a new life." Romans 6:3-4. That is from the first New Testament reading during the First Easter Mass, the solemn Easter Vigil. I love this reading. It reminds us that it isn't easy being a Christian, but it is worth the sacrifice. Our lives have meaning, and purpose and beauty because we are not satisfied with the shallow existence of materialism and self-gratification. Jesus has called us out of this darkness and death and given each of us the ability to make His presence real for others. If we just allow God to work through us, if we just strive to be that unique reflection of His love He created each of us to be, then we will come out of the tomb of selfishness this world buries us in and live eternally.

The tomb is empty, Mary Magdalene, sinner who lived it up and was dead in her sins. She found life by rejecting her sinful life. The tomb is empty Mary. But the world is full. The Savior Lives. May His life change the world. May we let His life change the world. For the world craves His New Life. And we need a New World.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies

Young Man Clothed in a White Robe

(April 4, 2020)

Bottom line: The Gospels are history but what they tell cannot be contained in a simple historical narrative. The history they describe continues because Jesus is not dead. He is alive and he goes before us. The young man clothed in a white robe is you - and me. 

Happy Easter! Felices Pascuas!

I'd like to begin in a perhaps surprising way: with a story about a father and son in the Auschwitz concentration camp. The food as you know was atrocious: thin soup, often with maggots floating, a piece of dried bread and on some occasions a bit of margarine. The boy noticed that his dad, instead of eating his ration of margarine, guarded it away. When December arrived the dad made a Hanukkah light with the margarine. The son, amazed, asked why he did not use the margarine to alleviate their extreme hunger. His father responded: "We have learned that we can live three days without water. We can live three weeks without food. But we cannot live three minutes without hope." The boy's name was Hugo Gryn. He survived Auschwitz and went on to become a widely respected British rabbi. Rabbi Hugo died in 1996.

This story ties with the prayer we said on Palm Sunday and have used through Holy Week: "Increase the faith of those who place their hope in you..." Hope depends on faith. People are suffering today because they have lost faith and therefore lost hope. They see nothing beyond this immediate world. In spite of having greater opportunities, greater freedom and greater abundance than any other generation, people feel a sense of hopelessness. Our children especially are plagued by loneliness, depression, even suicidal thoughts. 

I admit I feel anger at those who rob hope from young people. It would be one thing if they did it by reasonable arguments, but they tend to do by mockery. For example, they tell our children that the Bible is a bunch of fairy tales. There's a lot you can say in response, but the first question you have to ask is, what is a fairy tale? Typically, a fairy tale starts "once upon a time in a land far away..." Fairy tales have no interest in fitting in with human history. Modern fairy tales are Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. They are wonderful stories but are not rooted in any historical time or place. 

The Bible is very different- especially the Gospels. The crucifixion of Jesus happens at a specific place and time. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, in Jerusalem, at the time of the Jewish Passover. You cannot write off these events as fairy tales. You have to look at the evidence. For my money the evidence is pretty good. For more, I encourage you to read The Case for Jesus by Dr. Brant Pitre.

Now, when I say the Gospel accounts are historical, that does not mean they contain no elements of symbolism. For example, on Palm Sunday we hear about a young man wearing a linen cloth. The soldiers try to seize him, but he runs away leaving the cloth behind. Well today we hear, "On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed." Who is this young man? From the beginning, Christian writers have speculated about him. Bishop Bob Barron says that white robe represents the garment a Christian receives when he is baptized. Faced with persecution, some Christians run away. Perhaps you and I have faltered, not lived up to our baptism. Well, we are like that young man. But the resurrection brings hope. Today we see the young man restored and now bearing witness. 

He said to them, "Do not be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him."

He testifies to Jesus and becomes a disciple maker:

"But go and tell his disciples and Peter, 
'He is going before you to Galilee; 
there you will see him, as he told you.'"

The Gospels are history but what they tell cannot be contained in a simple historical narrative. The history they describe continues because Jesus is not dead. He is alive and he goes before us. The young man clothed in a white robe is you - and me. We'll see more during the fifty days of Easter. And we continue to pray: "Increase the faith of those who place their hope in you..." Amen.

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

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
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