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Homily for Easter Vigil / Easter Sunday

This person of Jesus is very real and very much alive.

By Bishop Larry Silva
April 01, 2018

[Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa; Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace]

It is no secret that our world is filled with bad news.  While our recent ballistic missile threat was a false alarm (Thanks be to God!), the tense situation in the world made such a threat entirely plausible.  With all our hype about happiness, people are finding life so difficult that they are anesthetizing themselves at an alarming rate with opiods and so-called recreational drugs.  While statues are being taken down because they honored people who promoted slavery, there is still a huge amount of slavery in our sweat shops, our agricultural fields, and in the sex industry.  While we are rightfully outraged at yet another school shooting that killed seventeen innocent young people, we hardly shed a tear for the millions of children whose lives are snuffed out in the secrecy of an abortion clinic.  We hear of oceans rising and once-inhabited islands disappearing because of human pollution of the environment.  We find that the many youth have no idea what a stable loving family is, because they have never lived in one.  In one of the most prosperous countries in the world, we have an alarming number of people who are homeless and hungry.

And we dare to gather here to sing “Alleluia!”  “Christ has conquered sin and death!”  If he has done so, it is not so obvious when the forces of sin and death are all around us.  Is the kind of joy in which we gather today escapism at its height, turning away from the suffering of the world to sing happy songs and think happy thoughts?  Won’t it make people cynical about who we are?

Did you notice that in today’s Gospel, no one saw the risen Jesus?  Yes, there are other Gospel passages in which he was actually seen, but in both the Gospel of Mark read at the Easter Vigil and the Gospel of John read on Easter Sunday, the risen Jesus is nowhere to be seen, only his empty tomb.  Since we are celebrating this amazing feast of his resurrection from the dead, the most important event in the history of humanity, we might presume that the Church would want to choose Gospel passages that are more explicit and clear.  But this seeming lack of clarity may be just the key we need to contemplate, because it does take eyes of faith to see that light has overcome darkness, love has conquered hatred, and life has conquered death itself in the resurrection of Jesus.

Easter is the time we initiate new members into the Church, which we refer to as the Body of Christ.  Christ is indeed risen from the dead, and if we look at his living and growing Body alive in the world, we will see that there is real reason to rejoice.  It is this Body of Christ that has provided food and shelter to more poor people around the world than any other human agency.  It is this living Body of Christ that has brought more light to the darkness and hopelessness of ignorance by offering educational opportunities in its thousands of schools and universities.  It is this risen Body of Christ that heals broken hearts and broken homes by reaching out with its many services, or just through simple people who reach out to love their neighbors.  Despite the darkness in the world, and even still in the Church itself, there is much to celebrate.

Yet we might think the Church is primarily a social service institution that engages its people in feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, caring for the sick, and ministering to those in prison.  But there is another miracle that we need the eyes of faith to see that makes the Church much more than a dedicated servant to all who suffer.  Here the living Word of God is proclaimed, so that through these sacred Scriptures our hearts can burn with love and be guided by God’s wisdom, even as it did for the disciples of Jesus who walked seven miles with him on the road to Emmaus but did not recognize him.  He is risen from the dead and has ascended into heaven out of our sight, but he is the living bread come down from heaven when his Spirit changes bread and wine into his own Body and Blood.  He is no distant Savior who directs us through his past legacy of teachings as he sits in heavenly glory.  It is his greatest glory to allow himself to be eaten and drunk by us in a communion so intimate that we should be embarrassed to celebrate so publicly.  And it is this communion that transforms us.  Just as Jesus rose up out of the tomb, he calls us to rise up out of the tomb of our selfishness, our cynicism, and our lack of hope and trust.  He gives courage to those who would otherwise have good reason to lose heart, and he is the light where darkness seems to have won the upper hand.

This person of Jesus is very real and very much alive.  And he has entered the darkness of our hearts, so that shining brightly through us, the world that lives in such darkness can see that there is hope, that there is light at the end of all sin and suffering.  We are baptized, immersed and soaked in Jesus when we die with him in the waters of the sacred font and rise with him to new life.  We are sealed and branded as living parts of his risen Body through our anointing with the Holy Spirit in Confirmation.  And we are fed with his own Body and Blood, so that we can become what we eat and continue to make his living Body present wherever we go.

The fact of Jesus risen from the dead is a reality that gives us great joy and that puts a song of “Alleluia” on our lips.  But his work of drawing life out of death continues in his risen Body, into which we are privileged and blessed to be incorporated.  Thus it is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation to sing our joy and our praise, because it is precisely this that lights up the world with hope and with a love that overcomes all darkness, all sin, and all death forever.