Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
April 12th, 2020
Acts 10:34a, 37-43 Col. 3:1-4 Jn. 20:1-9
“…it was still dark…”
Many of us are in our homes, isolated, concerned or even afraid. We mourn the loss of Holy Week and mourn especially the loss of this joyful day and all its traditions. It strikes us as a strange Easter, being unable to go to Mass, to visit relatives, to hunt eggs, and the like. The Lord has risen, yes! Alleluia! But to us “…it [is] still dark…”
Yet this Easter is not so unusual, for is it not very much like the first Easter? Next Sunday we will read of it: “…the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” (John 20:19). The disciples were afraid, not of sickness, but of their own people who had just put Jesus to death mere days earlier. So they isolated, and dwelt upon their fear, their sadness, and though the Gospel says it was evening, it was perhaps darker in that room than it was outside. And yet within that very room the Light of the World arose! For what is a locked door to the one who cast aside the stone of the tomb, who has passed through Death itself, who has torn open the very gates of Hell?
And so consider your circumstance today: are you afraid? Is the door to your heart locked with the deadbolt of fear? “Peace be with you,” He says. It is Easter, brothers and sisters; rejoice! Let the Light of the World into your homes and your hearts. In Revelation Our Risen Lord says “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me,” (Revelation 3:20). On Friday the world pounded upon the Temple of God—Christ’s own Body—with hammer and nails; the world unlocked the sanctuary of His Heart with a lance. Today the Lord pounds upon the door of your home with an eager hand, still bearing the scar of His Passion, desiring to be with you this day; He reaches out to unlock your heart not with a lance, but with arrows, with darts of love! As. St. Alphonsus Ligouri writes “When we see a God dying for our love, and dying in order to gain our love, it is impossible not to love him ardently. Such darts of love continually issue forth from the wounds of Christ crucified as pierce even hearts of stone.” Yes! How can our hearts not be pierced open with love for Him when we consider the trials He endured just to prove His love for us?
So do not be afraid; last night, at the Great Vigil, did not St. Paul remind us 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,” (Romans 6:3-4)? And so he reminds us today that “…you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Do not hide in your homes; do not hide in a cave of fear! “For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven. For in this tent we groan, longing to be further clothed with our heavenly habitation if indeed, when we have taken it off, we shall not be found naked. For while we are in this tent we groan and are weighed down, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has prepared us for this very thing is God,d who has given us the Spirit as a first installment… Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. ” (2 Corinthians 5:1-5, 8). Brothers and sisters, did not Jesus Himself say “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way…I am the way and the truth and the LIFE,” (John 15:1-4, 6).
Do not let your hearts be troubled! Build your house on rock, not upon sand (Matthew 7:24-29)! Be prudent, but unafraid, for JESUS CHRIST HAS CONQUERED DEATH! If this is true, what have we to fear? Your life is hidden with Christ in God; it is safe, but do you put your faith in this promise? Set your heart upon it, this treasure of everlasting life promised to those who believe in Him; “…store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be,” (Matthew 6:20-21). Oh if only we would hide, we would isolate, we would seek security in the Heart of Jesus, risen from the dead! Is not the spear-wound an ever-open door into His Heart? Would any evil dare to pass its threshold, or Death ever enter the very furnace where it was mortally burned?
Today be at peace; today be joyful! You are a Christian, and do we not profess every Sunday our belief that “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures?” You are no longer victims of Death; you are witnesses to Life! “They put [Jesus] to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” How are you any different?
You are Baptized into Christ, chosen by God as His son or daughter; did not Jesus say to His apostles and, by your baptism, to you “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…” (John 15:16)? Have you not eaten and drunk with Jesus at every Eucharist, blessed to be “called to the supper of the Lamb?” Have you not seen Him, risen and robed in mystery, in the Blessed Sacrament? “He commissioned us to preach to the people…” indeed! You need not burst forth from your homes to do this; witness to one another first, and transform your homes into the Upper Room where Mary and the apostles eagerly awaited the Spirit! Cast aside fear and doubt; “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows,” (Matthew 10:27-31).
You may see this Easter as being as confusing and disappointing as the empty tomb; you may lament as St. Mary did when she said “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” But run without fear into that tomb, into that dark and confusion, and carry your lamps of faith with you to dispel that darkness. For St. Peter, carrying no such lamp, saw what St. Mary saw: an empty tomb. But St. John, who had witnessed the Lord’s suffering and death, who heard His final words, who saw the spear pierce the Lord’s Heart and wrote of it “…so that you also may come to believe,” (John 19:35), saw not a tomb that was empty, but a tomb full of promise, for “…he saw and believed.” Are you not, in this time, a witness to the suffering of Christ in His Church, in His people? If the suffering of Christ upon the Cross led to the glory of this Easter Day, then how can we dare to doubt that this current suffering will not also yield to joy?
For as Jesus said to St. Gemma Galgani, whose feast would have been celebrated yesterday were not it consecrated to her King, “My child, do not complain because I will to keep you in the dark; but remember that after darkness comes light, and then you shall have light indeed…If you really do love me, you ought to love me even in the midst of darkness…Take courage, for after the battle comes peace. Fidelity and love must be your necessary weapons…Think only for the present of how you are to practice great virtue. Make haste in the ways of divine love, humble yourself, and rest assured that if I keep you on the Cross, I love you.” Yes, take courage: for with the timbers of the Cross the Son of the Carpenter has fashioned a door in the wall of Death, leading to everlasting life! On Friday the Light of the World went out, leaving the world in darkness; today that Light dawns anew and brighter than ever before! For “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone,” (Isaiah 9:1)!
Amen! Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!