Easter Sunday 2014
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
This simple prayer is an ancient form of greeting used primarily by Eastern Christians for centuries. It is a call and response used in the Easter season among Christians passing one another on the street or welcoming one another into their homes. Saying these words replaces saying “hello” or how are you?” at the time of Easter.
It might seem foreign to us but the Paschal Greeting is an ancient form of integrating prayer and faith into everyday life. So often today we are afraid to mention the name of the Lord in public but centuries ago the name of Christ was on the lips of His servants all the time. His resurrection was professed in greeting others because of its singular significance in our faith experience.
Why the resurrection as a greeting? Why that aspect of our faith? The resurrection proves the power of Christ’s saving work. As Saint Paul teaches, “If Christ has not been raised, our faith is in vain.” Without the resurrection from the dead, Jesus would be just another prophet, another crucified criminal, another itinerant preacher. Instead, He is our victorious Lord, who has triumphed over sin and death.
His Paschal Mystery is all about Jesus giving His life away on the Cross for our salvation and then being raised to new life. He reveals to us the good news that we who give our lives away for others are promised the joy of rising to new life with Him.
Christ has raised His mortal body and promised the raising of our mortal bodies, if we believe in Him. Believing means integrating what we profess into the routine of our daily experience – much like the ancient greeting – so that faith becomes a living and effective part of us. So that the name of Jesus flows from our lips.
Therefore, Paul exhorts us in today’s second reading to “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not what is on earth.” This was a formative passage for me in seminary. It comes up every year in the Liturgy of the Hours and the Mass all through the Easter Season. But one year, the Lord put this passage in front of me over and over. He wanted to tell me that He was calling me to something “more,” to a deeper experience of Himself, to a life-long vocation of service and not a mundane life at all. I was to seek the things of God and share them with the people of the Church. And, now here I am! No one can say I am not passionate about my faith.
Being a Christian means living like Christ and practicing the virtues that will form us into Christ-like men and women. It is not for us to get bogged down in the allurements of this world, which promise happiness but end in dissatisfaction. The world around us is all about serving our selfishness. For the Christian, the great calling is to look upward to the glory of God and outward to the needs of others.
Sometimes we look askance at people who quote Scripture, who have a repertoire of quaint spiritual sayings, who live life with joy in sorrow and the praise of God on their lips. Deep down we yearn for some of their peace but it’s too “old fashioned” to be visibly religious. Why are we so hardened of heart? Why do we call passionate Christians “Jesus freaks?”
I had a similar experience in first year seminary. I came from a good Catholic home but we were quiet people and weren’t used to talking openly about the spiritual life. So, I was surprised when I first heard the older men praising and thanking God all the time for everything. I didn’t understand. Now of course, God has led me to a deeper spiritual life and I know that He is a part of everything I am and all I do. I need to seek the presence of God in every detail of life. But at first I was uncertain, afraid.
Saint Augustine fled from religion at first as well. As a young man, He wanted nothing to do with faith and everything to do with women, partying and his own designs. He resisted the encouragement of his mother and the yearning of his heart until the Lord broke in and spoke to his heart and inspired him to take up the scriptures, where he found the passage where Saint Paul beckons the reader to leave behind the darkness and walk in the light.
Saint Hubert, the patron of hunters, was out one day in the 8th Century, Good Friday no less, while everyone was in church, on the chase with his famous hounds. He turned around to see a deer with a crucifix in its antlers and heard Jesus speak to him: "Hubert, unless you turn to the Lord, and lead a holy life, you shall quickly fall into the abyss of Hell!"
These were real men, learned men, men of stature. They were not accustomed to prayer, rituals and the weakness of surrendering before God. They did manly things – hunting animals and racking up concubines. But when Jesus touched their hearts, everything that held them back crumbled like dust. They surrendered to God and, though they weren’t perfect immediately, they remained seekers of His will for their entire life.
God gives us such a blessed opportunity to seek and discover the greater realities of His plan for us through the life of the Church.
Why do we humans keep eating fast food, when God is offering us a banquet of rich delights through our Christian life? Why settle for idle pursuits when God is inviting us to study His Word and live by it? Seek the things that are above: the joy of heaven, the love of God, the life of the angels who are forever praising God. This is how we are to live: in faith, hope and love, with prudence, moderation, justice and courage. These are the greater realities that signify the Christian soul.
Today we celebrate the confirmation of Dr. Karen Holen and welcome her into our parish…
However, because we are afraid and uncertain and even worldly at times, we had no one for Baptism last night at the Easter Vigil.
I gave a challenge at the beginning of the year for each family to bring one person to Church this year to experience our parish. We prayed all through Lent for those names we put in the baskets at the Altar, for those who are away from the Lord. So, I hope to see at least five Baptisms next year at the Easter Vigil. Andover is fertile ground, waiting for us to plant the seeds of faith that the Lord will nurture into fruitful conversions.
We’re afraid – afraid to speak boldly in the name of Jesus, afraid to listen to His voice amid the noise of the world, afraid to trust in what is from above and leave all else behind. But the Good News is that fear, sin, death and evil are trampled by the Risen Christ. When we live for the greater things of God, only goodness awaits us!
Once we prioritize God and the needs of those around us, our human existence will be drawn upward and we will be blessed with the fruits of life lived in communion with the Spirit of God: joy, peace, patience, gentleness and goodness. Seek the things of God and not the follies of the world, for God is our maker and the source of our salvation. He is risen! Seek to live with Him forever!
Praise and glory, honor and adoration be to Jesus Christ now and forever! Alleluia!