16 April 2017Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Easter Sunday: the Resurrection - A Cycle - John 20:1-9

Two women stood before the 12th century Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. One asked, "Why can't we build structures like this anymore?" Her friend answered, "The people who built this had faith. Today we have opinions. You can't build a cathedral with opinions." Once Jesus was arrested, the apostles except the teenage John remembered pressing appointments miles from the trouble scene. But the women followers of Jesus were cut from a different cloth. They dug in and held their ground. They would not desert their Man no matter what the cost. Women and not men starred in the critical, early hours of Christianity.

Their reward for heroism was demotion to a minor and non-priestly positions by men. Women got a raw deal. They ride in the back of the bus. (Associated Press) Friday found the women on Calvary. Christ's male followers were AWOL. The women were not intimidated by the Roman soldiers who had the death watch that afternoon. Though exhausted, the "weaker sex" busied themselves that evening preparing spices to anoint the body of their deceased Leader. Their male counterparts were still MIA. On the Sabbath, the women "rested, as the law commanded." (Luke) They were devout Jews. It would be sometime before the term Christian was coined to describe this movement. Early Sunday AM was their target date for anointing His corpse. As dawn broke, the women bolted out of their economy motel and made for the tomb. It was no contest. The young Mary of Magdala reached the tomb first. That famous boulder had been rolled from the tomb's mouth.

There is no way of telling whether Mary investigated the tomb interior. She did an about face. She raced for the fax machine to tell Peter the tomb had been disturbed. Peter was convinced Mary Magdalen was hallucinating. But He angrily stepped into his sandals to check out the scene for himself. Young John came along to keep him company. John soon had the older man eating his dust. Ignoring his curiosity, John waited for the out-of-shape Peter to catch up. Despite his Friday flight, when he betrayed Christ and ran, Peter was still the CEO. Peter put two and two together and brusquely told John, "Some ghouls have stolen Jesus' body." But, although he kept quiet, the boy apostle did not accept Peter's conclusion. John's mental computer raised a horde of interesting questions.

If this was the work of body snatchers, why would they have wasted the precious time needed to unwind the sheets? Why would they have risked a disease from handling the decomposing body? Furthermore, why would they have left the linen cloths behind? Material of the quality, provided by the wealthy Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea, would bring top dollars at the nearest flea market. One washing in detergent at the village laundromat and they could be sold as Irish linen. A bulb then flashed in the teenager's brain. Jesus had pulled their leg one more time. He had risen from the dead. Nor was the symbolism of the cloths laying about lost on the boy. When Lazarus walked out of his tomb, he carried his winding cloths with him. He would need them for a second death.

But not so Jesus! He would never die again. The Feast of the Resurrection belongs to women and young people. It was women who stood by Christ on Good Friday. It was Mary of Magdala, just a slip of a girl, who was the first person to reach the tomb that first Easter AM. Her overpowering love, even for a deceased and vanquished Jesus, caused her to destroy all existing track records. It was the gangly teen John who was the first one of record to realize that the foxy Master had risen. Remember all John had to go on was faith. He had not seen the resurrection. No one had. Like ourselves, he was peering through a glass darkly. Only his own glass was much more clouded and cracked than ours. Yet, that same faith changed the life of the women, that boy and the girl Mary.

The old life is comfortable. The new life is demanding. Yet the new life is rich and the old life is barren. (Unknown) The Resurrection of their Teacher was the beginning of a fresh life for women and the young John and Mary of Magdala. Why could it not be the same for us? The Gospels do not explain the Resurrection. The Resurrection explains the Gospels. Belief in the Resurrection is not a footnote in the Christian faith; it is the Christian faith. Faith in His Resurrection teaches that the best is yet to come. (Unknown) This Easter season live your life with that conviction. 
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
Easter Sunday: Now We Remain

The Forty Days are over. We have joined the Lord in preparing for the momentous change. The Paschal Sacrifice is complete. The Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lamb of God has been carried out. The tomb is empty, Mary Magdalene. The tomb is empty, and now we remain. The transformation has begun. The flowers symbolize the New Life that has come to the world. Jesus Christ lives! He is Risen. We live. We don't just have physical lives. We have spiritual lives. The Father raised Jesus from the dead. The Father and Son have given their Spirit to all who have a living faith in Jesus Christ. Still, we cannot and will not forget the events of Holy Week. The passion and death of our Lord are as much a part of us as His resurrection. Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware 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. This is from the Sixth chapter of Paul's Letter to the Romans. It is the first New Testament reading of the Easter Season. It tells us that the Paschal Event is a living reality, one in which we participate. Evil has lost its grip on the world. The devil has been defeated. We are united to Jesus Christ. The tomb is empty. But we remain. The Second Letter to Timothy tells us that if we have died for the Lord we shall live with the Lord. Back to Romans 6, we must think of ourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Soon we will be receiving the Eucharist.

What is it that we are doing when we receive communion? We are taking the Lord within us, yes. But there is more than this. When we receive communion, we are one with Christ's suffering and death. "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes,” we read in 1 Corinthians 11. And we radiate the joy of the Lord. "I want you to share in our joy,” St John writes at the beginning of his first letter. We proclaim the death and resurrection of the Lord. We want the whole world to share in our joy. We need the world to share in our joy. There are so many people who long for this joy. There are people who are suffering from insufficient food and medicine in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, and, yes, in the United States. When Catholic Relief Services or the Catholic Campaign for Human Development gives them food and medicine and the knowledge and tools to provide for their future, these people don't just eat, nor are they just healed, they experience the Lord present in the aid workers.

There are many poor people in the United States. Many of them are single mothers or single fathers. They wonder how they can care for their children with such limited incomes. When they experience members of the community reaching out to them, making sure their children are treated the same as all the other children, helping them when they need emergency baby sitting, etc, these people don't just have immediate problems solved, they experience Jesus Christ present in their neighbors, friends and sometimes, in total strangers. Then they realize that there are no strangers in the Body of Christ. There are many people who are facing serious challenges to their health, or worse, to that of one of the children. When doctors, nurses, hospice workers, and all medical personal care for them with the love of the Lord, the sick don't just benefit from expertise, they experience the healing hands of Jesus Christ working through others.

There are many people who feel pushed to the fringe of society. Others seem to tolerate them, but don't really accept them. But when they walk into a Church and people welcome them as members of the praying community, they realize that they are welcomed by Jesus Christ. And there are those who have been devastated by sin, be it their own sin or that which was thrust upon them by others. Maybe they seem trapped in the gutters of our society. Perhaps substance abuse has forced them into self-destructive lives. Maybe they are in prison.

Maybe they have committed crimes that merited punishment by society. There are many people who are convinced that they are drowning in evil. They wonder if there is any hope for them. When people reach out to them and tell them that Jesus died for them, and wants to share His Life with them, they find the Lord in those who radiate His compassion. What does it mean to be a Catholic? Rites and rituals, beautiful liturgies, prayer groups and classes to help us understand our Lord, ministries for all ages, all these aspects of our faith are wonderful, but even taken together they do not make a person Catholic or the Church Catholic. To be Catholic is to be universal. The very word Catholic mean universal. We are Catholic when we are so united to Jesus Christ that His death and His life radiate through every action of our lives. You see, we are not Catholic for ourselves. We are Catholic for others. The forty days are over. The transformation is upon the world. Jesus Christ has risen. But the tomb is empty. And now we remain.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Life in Christ Week 1: His Will is Our Peace (April 16, 2017)

Message: Rest in God; his will is our peace Happy Easter! Easter comes late this year but it is not too late for us to enter life in Christ. That will be my theme for the Easter season - the seven weeks between now and Pentecost Sunday - Life in Christ. On this Easter Sunday St. Paul tells us, "Your life is hidden with Christ in God." What does that phrase mean - Life in Christ? We had some hints during Holy Week. On Palm Sunday, we heard Jesus' prayer, "Not as I will, but your will be done!" He accepted the Father's will even though it meant horrendous suffering. On Good Friday we saw that Jesus - God's very Son - learned obedience from what he suffered. Obedience does not mean unthinking servility. No, the word comes from the Latin "ob - audire" which means to listen carefully, to pay full attention.

So life in Christ involves obedience, that is, listening to God, embracing his will. An Italian poet helped me understand this. You have probably heard of him - Dante Alighieri. He wrote a beautiful poem called the Divine Comedy. It tells about his journey into the depths of hell, then an arduous climb up the seven story mountain of purgatory. Finally Dante gets to the spheres of heaven. The lowest sphere of course belongs to the moon. In that sphere are those who broke their vows, but repented before they died. There Dante recognizes a woman named Piccarda. Dante asks Piccarda if the souls on this lowest sphere aren't a little unhappy, maybe envy those who have a higher place in heaven. But Piccarda gently smiles and she seems "to glow with the first fire of love."

She explains to Dante that the essence of heaven is to dwell in God's holy will. Then she speaks the most famous single verse in the Divine Comedy, "In his will is our peace." His will is our peace. This does not mean God absorbs or destroys our individual wills. What it means is that a person discovers true freedom: to align one's own will with God's will. No one does this by his own power or his own cleverness. It can only happen by union with Christ. Life in Christ. Heaven, eternal life, means to embrace the Father's will - in Jesus. That life has to begin now, here on earth, or it will never begin. Perhaps you have heard the quote, "Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned." This quote might sound extreme, but you can find it in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (#2744) If you pray, you are saved; if not, you are lost. Our relationship with God - life in Christ - begins now.

During Lent many of you began a practice of daily prayer - ten minutes of silence each day to listen to God. In these seven weeks of Easter I will explain more about what this life in Christ involves - and how you can use the Bible as a springboard for prayer. You will not regret the time you spend in prayer. Perhaps you heard about the two men who were chopping trees. One man chopped for eight hours straight. The other chopped for fifty minutes, then rested for ten and started again. The second man chopped down more trees. How did he do it? He was not stronger than the first man. When they asked him his secret, he said, "During my breaks, I sharpened the ax." Take time to pray. Everything will go better.

But above all you will desire to embrace the will of the Father - in Jesus. In his will is our peace. Some of you are just beginning Life in Christ - like those baptized at the Easter Vigil. It's wonderful to talk to them about the difference prayer makes in their lives. On the other hand, many of you have immersed yourself in Christ since your infancy. But you know when it comes to Life in Christ all of us are beginners. Perhaps some here have drifted from Christ or even become alienated. I invite you to try God - not some childish cartoon but the living all-powerful God: the one we will profess in our renewal of baptism vows, the God who thirsts for your faith. Try God. What have you to lose? You've tried everything else. Try God. Next Sunday I will offer a way to use the Bible to listen to God: How you can not only wade into the Scriptures, but take the plunge. Don't miss it. For today, rest in God. His will is our peace Jesus has done all the heavy lifting. Rest in God. His will is our peace. Amen
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
Easter Sunday, Classic John 20: 1–9

Gospel Summary
John's resurrection account is relatively brief and differs significantly from the Synoptic accounts. Mary Magdalene has a prominent role here and the mysterious "other disciple whom Jesus loved" appears again just as he did at the Last Supper. The special attention given to Mary Magdalene suggests that she is a person who embodies the ideal of love that is so evident in the fourth gospel. After hearing about the empty tomb, Peter hurries there to see what this might mean. But the unnamed "other disciple" outruns him, and then defers to him, thus permitting Peter to be the first to enter the tomb. This gesture acknowledges the authority of Peter but it also reveals how deeply the beloved disciple has understood the teaching of Jesus about unselfish love. It has been noted that in John's gospel Peter is the unquestioned leader of the Church, thus guaranteeing good order. The "disciple whom Jesus loved" represents the prophetic and mystical dimension of the Church that prevents authority from becoming authoritarian. Life Implications Easter is the feast of all feasts.

The feast of Christmas did not even exist for the first two centuries of the church's life, but Christianity is inconceivable without Easter. This feast is the contact point between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament for it occurred on the anniversary of the Exodus of Israel from Egyptian bondage and fulfills the promise in that central event in Israel's history. If we do not understand Easter, we do not have a clue about the meaning of Christianity or about its relationship to Israel. To understand this central feast, we must realize that it is, as it were, the third act in a drama that begins already on Holy Thursday and continues through Good Friday. Missing the first two acts of the drama almost guarantees that one will miss the meaning of the drama.

Therefore, to ignore Holy Thursday and Good Friday almost guarantees a misunderstanding of Easter Sunday. On Holy Thursday, Jesus sums up the whole meaning and purpose of his mission on earth. This meaning is found in the Eucharist in which Jesus offers his Body and pours out his precious Blood for others. In other words, Jesus has come to tell us that the only path to real life and happiness is the path of unselfish love. We must begin our Easter celebration, therefore, with our acceptance of this ideal as the model for our own behavior.

Good Friday tells us that living unselfishly will be very difficult. Every act of unselfish love is a little dying. But in such dying there is also a hint of the happiness and life that are promised to those who are not afraid to walk the path of Jesus. On Holy Saturday, the liturgy is muted and there is a quiet but powerful sense of expectation. It seems that the whole universe, here and in heaven. is holding its breath as it waits to see whether unselfish love, which often appears to be so foolish, really does make sense for us. The triumphant answer is given on Easter Sunday when the flowers and the bells and the alleluias attempt to capture the glory of this resounding victory of Jesus over sin and death. The celebration of Easter joy thus confirms the wisdom of believing what Jesus taught on Holy Thursday and of living this wisdom, patiently and trustingly, on the Good Fridays of our lives.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Easter, Modern Mass during the Day John 20: 1 - 9
Alleluia! Jesus is Risen!
This is the greeting that we proclaim today, and the song that we joyfully sing. However, the first Easter did not begin as a joyous day. Peter and the ten remaining apostles where hiding in the upper room, both grieving the death of Jesus, and fearful of what might happen to them. Mary of Magdala goes to the tomb early in the morning to perform the burial rituals that could not be done earlier because of the Passover. She is not going there to see the Risen Lord, she is going to anoint dead man who changed her life. She arrives at the tomb and discovers that the stone was removed and the tomb was empty.

Again, it was not a moment of "yes, He did it." but one of deeper grief as she runs to the upper room to tell Peter that someone took the body from the tomb. This news gets Peter and the others moving and when they arrived at the tomb, Peter entered and he understood, for Jesus had told them that, "he had to rise from the dead." This is the moment when their mourning was turned to joy, and they began to proclaim, "Alleluia! Jesus is Risen! We can only imagine the pre-Resurrection thoughts and emotions of the apostles and followers of Jesus, but we are not called to imagine their Resurrection Joy, but rather to experience that joy that comes from our Risen Lord. Last June Pope Francis raised the liturgical celebration of the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene to the dignity of a feast, the same rank given to the liturgical celebration of the Apostles.

The decree entitled The Apostle of the Apostles [Apostolorum apostola], explains the reason for the Pope’s actions and the long tradition of Mary Magdala being known as the Apostle of the Apostles. She was the one who discovered the empty tomb and announced this to Peter and the others. In the other Gospel accounts she is the one who the Risen Lord appeared to first. This Gospel and the elevation of her Feast is a recognition of her important role on Easter.

During the Easter Season we will hear the Gospel accounts of the Risen Lord and how the news of his Resurrection spread. It serves as a time for us to celebrate this great event. It is the act of God’s love that freed us from sin and opened for us the way to the glory and joy of eternal life in Heaven. This is a season for us to celebrate, not just the historical event of two thousand years ago, but also the reality that this event is timeless.

The Risen Lord still touches and changes the hearts of men and women. One way to see this is by noting the number of people in the RCIA who entered the church at the Easter Vigil. His presence continues to draw others to know him personally, and is the call for us to lift up our hearts and souls with renewed faith and joy. Like Mary Magdala, we are the apostles of our own time who are called to run with joy to proclaim to others that Jesus is Risen.

This is a joy and a proclamation that in itself speaks volumes and draws others to experience Jesus more in their lives. May it not be muted by whatever clouds surround us, but let it be an experience that casts away darkness in our lives so that the Glory of the Lord can shine forth brightly. May this Easter Season be a time for us to sing out "Alleluia!" from the depths of our hearts.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS

We celebrate today the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ which is, without a doubt, the most important feast in the Christian Year. It is the anniversary of the greatest event that ever happened. It is a day of immense joy; all the more so because it comes after the long period of Lenten preparation.

We read in the Gospel of John this morning how Mary of Magdala discovered the tomb to be empty and how she ran as quickly as she could to inform Peter and John that the body of Jesus was missing. It is important to avoid confusion and be very clear who this Mary Magdalene actually is. Mary was a common name at the time and Mary Magdalene is often confused with the repentant prostitute who anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair and who doesn't have her name recorded in the Gospels.

The Mary we are talking about is the woman who, it is said, had seven demons driven out of her. She became a prominent disciple of Jesus and was among those who provided for Jesus and the Apostles out of their own resources, so she must have been a woman of some substance. We know that she was among the select group who were there when Jesus died on the Cross and it is evident that she had a deep love for the Lord and had spent a lot of time with him.

It is interesting to note, however, that Mary Magdalene, despite being a very close follower of Jesus, does not immediately realise when she saw the empty tomb that Jesus had risen from the dead. She says, 'We don't know where they have put him.' This suggests that she thinks that some people, presumably with the approval of authorities, have removed the body from the tomb and placed it somewhere else.

The first to believe that Jesus has actually risen is, of course, John and then Peter immediately afterwards. Neither of them seems to have any difficulty in understanding what has happened. What this shows is that, despite being her being a close follower of Jesus, and presumably therefore hearing his teaching at some length and despite the fact that on a number of occasions Jesus had predicted he would rise from the dead, she still has difficulty believing in the fact of the resurrection. In this I suppose she is not so different from many of us today. We recite the creed and we openly profess our faith in the resurrection every Sunday, but that does not mean that we have fully appreciated the consequences of the resurrection. It does not necessarily mean that this belief has taken deep root in us.

Most of us, in the course of our lives, will have witnessed death a number of times, we will surely have suffered bereavement and certainly we will have witnessed the mourning many other people around us have experienced. We may even have been present when someone we love has died. We have surely at that moment prayed that they will go to heaven and that they will be at peace with God for all eternity. The question is whether we truly believe it. And what about ourselves? Despite these experiences of death, we may still experience deep doubts about what will happen to us when we die. We may well be very afraid of death and regard it as something mysterious and unknown and perhaps a thing which we deeply dread. The very thought of death can fill us with a profound anxiety.

And in this we are not alone, many people in society at large are also extremely fearful of the power of death. The widespread denial of the reality of death is pervasive in modern day culture and the obvious reason for this is that death is something the people of today cannot face up to. What we need to do is to fully embrace the Easter story. What we need to do is to realise that the Apostles were telling the truth, and understand that Christ has broken through the barrier of dearth once and for all. What we need to do is to understand that death is not the end but rather the gateway to a completely new future.

We ought also to apply a bit of Christian hope to the situation. When we pray for those who have died we need to recognise that what we are actually doing is expressing a profound Christian hope in the resurrection. We should carefully distinguish ordinary hope from Christian hope. Ordinary hope is wishing that our horse will win the Grand National or wanting the traffic lights to turn in our favour or anticipating promotion at work. Christian hope includes this desire that something should happen, but added to this is the confident expectation that it will come about because it is the will of God.

It is more about trusting in the promises of God rather than simply desiring or wishing a particular outcome to a certain set of circumstances. When we exercise the virtue of hope what we are doing is placing our confidence in God and believing that what he has ordained will actually happen. When we feel anxiety about death what we should do is to place our trust in God. When we worry about what will happen to us when we die we need to turn to God in order to express our faith in him and confidently expect that what he has revealed to us about death will come about.

The Christian virtue of hope is essentially therefore focussed on God and on our fundamental belief that what he commands will definitely come about. In the case of death, we hope in eternal life because he has told us that it is not the end but a gateway to a new and fuller life with him. Easter then is a wonderful season, it is a great celebration because it marks the definitive end of death and the unfolding of our salvation. The first Easter Day can be called the hinge of history because it is the definitive event which has changed the world and the whole of humanity. Up till that point everything was waiting for it and after it everything is seen in a completely new light. So today we rejoice; today we celebrate in solemn liturgy the greatest event ever to occur in history which is nothing less than the dawning of our salvation. This is the event that places everything else in perspective because it opens for us the possibility to express our faith in Jesus Christ as the one true Saviour of the World. On this wonderful Easter morning let us rejoice that we have so great a Saviour and with one voice place all our hope and trust in him.
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