Easter Sunday – Homily (Fr. Smith)

A poet wrote that it is not where I breathe but where I love, I live. The risen Jesus has brought us to a world where everything revolves around God’s love and we can live life to the full.  

This world begins at the tomb. Jesus had been placed in it hurriedly and now for him to be buried as a Jew he must be anointed with oil. Three women come to do this, but they know that a stone has been rolled over the entrance to prevent animals from defiling a corpse and they will not be able to move it.  

They loved Jesus so much that they would risk the wrath of the authorities by tending to his body. This is true love they did not think that he was alive and could no longer do anything for them. Yet although four times in Marks’s gospel Jesus says that he will rise from the dead his disciples, even these brave women and women are the superior disciples in Mark, do not understand, they expected to find a corpse. 

But they look up, a biblical image for recognizing that God is present, and find the stone rolled back but there is no sign of any human able to do it. The doors of the mystical and divine have been opened. They entered the tomb and saw a young man sitting at the right side in a white robe. This is the usual way of describing an angel. They are utterly amazed and stand in awe because they know that God is present.  

Let us stop here for a moment. They were amazed and that is the first and necessary step to celebrating Easter. What God has done is beyond our comprehension. We cannot understand it’s mechanics but also if we are honest, we cannot comprehend its purpose. Why would he who formed and sustains the universe die for me? It is breathtaking but how often does it take our breath away? It can become a commonplace doctrine we hold but not a conviction we live. During Holy week we solemnly remember this. We do so with ceremonies that are not repeated during the year and readings which focus our attention on these great mysteries. A good Mass is not one in which we feel close to Jesus for an hour in the confines of a church, but one which transforms us to act like Jesus the rest of the week. A good Holy Week, especially Easter, only begins with a sense of awe which may at best last for a few days but should give us a recognition of the power and intimacy of God’s love throughout the year especially when we celebrate the eucharist.  

With that awe we can understand the church’s proclamation spoken through the angel: “Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified has been raised.” This is truly the Jesus who has truly died on the cross. He has not escaped death. But he is the self-same Jesus who has been raised. The passive – has been – is a sign of divine action. His cry from the cross “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me,” has been answered. God has heard and vindicated him. 

The women are told to examine the tomb. The empty tomb is not sufficient proof by itself, but it points to the mystery. There is something in our lives and in our world which only Jesus can fill. Therefore, the angel tells the women to go and tell Peter and the apostles that he will meet them in Galilee. Several chapters before this he promised that when he rose from the death, he will go before them – lead them – to Galilee. It is a very Jewish way of speaking of completion. Jesus’ earthly ministry began in Galilee and it will end, be fulfilled, there as well. There the disciples will have the experience of Jesus direct and real. 

We need to return to the beginning in Galilee as well:  

 After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel (Mk 1:14–15). 

The disciples as good Jews knew that the time of fulfillment meant that God would open the graves of the dead and raise them up. He would then separate those who had led good lives from those who did not. There – in this world – he would establish his rule over all people. This was to show his justice. All the just would be vindicated. As we have all seen the unjust prosper, we know that this would not be in our earthly lifetime, Therefore, this would be in the future but is very much a this worldly event. Jesus called living under God the kingdom and this is the gospel he preached. Any Jew who heard this good news would have known that Justice must be part of it. 

Yet it was better news than anyone could have imagined. The kingdom begins now, with Jesus ‘This risen life is a gift to all who wish it. The kingdom is where we meet and live with the risen Lord; it is our Galilee. Its fullness is yet to come, first in this world and then in heaven for all eternity but it is already here, now. 

 The kingdom is living in harmony with God, our fellow humans and with nature. We know that we are far from perfect harmony but since through Baptism we are joined to Jesus and to each other it is still real. We are bond by love, and we seek to make these bonds tighter by justice. 

We make the kingdom real by recognizing the God given human dignity of everyone: the unborn whether wanted or unwanted and in the mother who needs support to bring the child to term whether rich or poor. We make the kingdom real when we prevent the harassment of LGBT teens, the most endangered group in our society, and when we assure our senior citizens, the most invisible group in our society, not only of physical security but of a friendly ear. And we must assure that those who we so easily called essential workers last year are given the civil and financial recognition they deserve this year, 

Justice that embraces the love of the risen Jesus shows that we may be breathing in the borough of Brooklyn, but we are living in the kingdom of God.