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Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

I wonder if we really want Jesus to be risen from the dead.

By Bishop Larry Silva
April 15, 2018

[St. Anthony Church, Wailuku (Confirmation)]

Sometimes I wonder if we really want Jesus to be risen from the dead. 

Yes, it’s nice to get together and sing these beautiful songs of Easter, to belt out our “Alleluias,” to see the beautiful decorations in the church, and to celebrate the joy of Easter in other ways; but once we leave this place, do we actually, in effect, lock Jesus back in the tomb and roll the stone across its entrance until we decide to come back next week and roll it away?

Even the apostles, who lived and worked with him for three years, and to whom he had predicted the resurrection, could not believe their eyes when they saw Jesus risen and standing before them.  They thought they were seeing a ghost, and he had to do several things to convince them that he was physically risen from the dead, and was not simply some spirit who came back from the other side of death.  And perhaps Jesus has to work just as hard with us to convince us that he is risen from the dead.

Of course we know that many people do not come to Mass every Sunday.  But if we really understood how much Jesus loves us and the fact that he makes himself physically present to us here at the Eucharist, would anything else be more important on a Sunday than coming here to encounter the risen Lord?  How much the world would change if more people joined us here to encounter the risen Christ in his living Word and to receive his Body and Blood?  Or do we forget who he is and roll the stone of our hearts back across the tomb so that his presence here simply does not matter, and we can feel free to do whatever else we might want to do on Sundays.  It is a challenge for us who are here to witness to others that his is not just an hour filled with Scripture readings, songs, sermons, and time with nice people, but it is an encounter with the risen Jesus, who loves us more than we can imagine.

We can also lock Jesus up in the tomb when we celebrate his resurrection and his presence here in church, but we do not live his risen life in our families, our places of work, or our body politic.  We compartmentalize our lives, giving the Lord our homage here, but rolling the stone across this beautiful tomb so that we do not have to be bothered with his presence where he might love us into making some real changes in our lives.  We become sometimes believers rather than believing with every fiber of our being that Jesus is alive and lives among us now.

Or perhaps the stone we use to seal Jesus back in his tomb is the notion that our faith is a private affair, and we do not want to risk making anyone uncomfortable by sharing it publicly.  Yet we see that this is what Peter did once he experienced the risen Lord.  He went out boldly and was not afraid of offending people.  In fact, in today’s reading we hear him getting in the face of those who crucified Jesus, not letting them off the hook by thinking they had no part in that terrible deed, yet at the same time offering repentance.  Because he was so bold, thousands were converted to be followers of Jesus.  Sometimes we do not speak up when life is devalued, when people are bullied or gossiped about, or when there is something we know could be done for the poor and we do not do it.  In effect, we seal Jesus back in the tomb, so that he cannot fully engage with the world he came to save.  Yes, of course, there is the danger that we will be criticized and persecuted, but if we who know Jesus and the love and peace that comes from following his commands are not bold about sharing him with others, then the whole world gets locked up in a tomb of cultural decay.

How good it is for us to be here to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead!  But Jesus also challenges us to never celebrate this as simply a past event that has little or no impact on our present lives.  He IS risen.  He is alive.  He is present and active among us, and through us, who have experienced his presence and his love, he wants to have his message to never again to be locked up in the tomb, but to be proclaimed boldly throughout the world, so that all who live in it can not only sing but live the Alleluias that well up in our hearts.