Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever!
Once again, a very happy Easter to you and your families. And a special welcome to any who are visiting us today.
So, here is my homily that I had written. *I show my homily* But before Mass I was talking to my lector and I realize that I need to put this aside and just speak to you from my heart. *At this point, I tucked my notes under the book of the gospels. The rest of what you read here is the best that I can remember of what I said.*
Rediscovering Good Friday
For the past nine months, I have had the pleasure of being assigned here to St. Joe’s. And, when I arrived, Monsignor—in his wisdom—made me the director of the RCIA program. RCIA is for those who are wanting to learn more about the Catholic faith and may possibly join the Church. Now, for any other parish, this might be a small undertaking of walking with five or six people. For us here at the Catholic Deluxe Parish, we had thirty. Yes, last night at the Easter Vigil, we welcomed home thirty people to the Catholic faith. Praise God!
Last night, as we welcomed them home, I realized something about Easter Sunday and that’s what I want to share with you today.
For nine months, I had given so much to this program—to put together lectures, to stay on top of deadlines and questions, to pray. I was assisted by so many people too. But there were so many sacrifices. Having to give up free moments here, sacrificing some time with friends there. For nine months, I was laboring for this group.
And something I did not expect started to happen.
I started to fall in love with them.
The thirty who were strangers when I met them, people who were foreign to me and perhaps even weary of me at first—these thirty people, I realized, were good, beautiful, and genuine people truly seeking to learn more, truly being called to find their home.
I began to really love them. I wanted them to find their home. And it didn’t matter to me what sacrifices I had to make or what sufferings I would have to endure. I loved them!
This helped me to understand Good Friday. (Which I wrote about here)
In the past, I mostly saw Good Friday as a day focusing upon pain and death and suffering—all for our sins. The emphasis of the day being on our sins. What I had missed was the obvious, something that I realized now: Good Friday is a day about Love.
I loved my RCIA people. And because I loved them, I willingly suffered for them. Because Jesus loves us, He willingly suffered for us. This is what love does.
Rediscovering Easter Sunday
Last night, I was standing at the entry to the sanctuary and I began to read the names of those who were about to enter the Catholic Church. And as I began to read their names, I began to think about how far they had come and how we had all suffered together and about how much I truly loved them. And I had to fight back the tears.
Here they were, coming into the Church. The suffering was over. But my love continued. I still loved them! Mothers you know this by way of your experience: for nine months in the womb you carry your child and you love your child. And after you give birth to your child, you still love her, right? You never stop loving your child, right?
Good Friday is the labor of Jesus’ love. But His love still continues, right? So, after Good Friday, how is He going to show us that His love is forever?
How is He going to show that His love is forever?
By destroying the one thing that keeps us thinking that nothing is forever. He had to destroy death. That’s what happens at Easter.
Easter, then, isn’t about the end of the Cross. Easter isn’t about replacing Good Friday. Easter is about Love showing us that this Good Friday Love is forever! It is forever because His Love is stronger than death itself!
Don’t you see?
Jesus’ love wasn’t just a flash in the pan that lasted for only three hours on some random Friday afternoon. Jesus’ love wasn’t just yesterday. He love isn’t just today. Jesus’ love is forever! Yesterday and today and forever!
He loves you forever! – not only until death do us part, but forever!
Rediscovering the Tomb: The End and the Beginning of the World
Look at Mary Magdalene. She is there in the early morning “while it was still dark.” This is about four in the morning. (I googled this). Who goes to a tomb at four in the morning?! Nobody does that. Unless… unless it was love.
I totally get Mary Magdalene now. She went to the tomb because she was convinced that Love was forever. She was in disbelief at what had happened to Love on that Cross. Love, she thought, Love couldn’t be killed—not like this, not by a Cross, not at all. And so she goes to the tomb with a heart with so much sorrow, with a heart like so many of us that pours forth its words: “Love, Love… Please… don’t let this be the end of love!”
Don’t let this be the end of Love!
And when she approaches the tomb, she notices that the door to it has been opened. She is startled by this. Something is amiss. And so she runs to Peter and the apostles and tells them that the stone was rolled back, that the door was open instead of sealed.
And it was supposed to be sealed, right? I mean, as much as I’m sure she wanted to believe that Love is forever, there was some realism in her that believes—just as we all do—that death is the great equalizer, the great destroyer. Nothing survives death. So, Peter and John, come to the tomb because something is not right here! Have we been wrong about death? Is there something… beyond it?
So they run to the tomb. And John goes in once Peter has arrived. And the tomb is empty.
But something happens in that tomb: the Gospel says that John “saw and believed.”
He saw and believed.
I think of Jesus’ first invitation when Andrew asked Him, “Lord, where are you staying?” Jesus responded, saying: “Come and see.”
If you have ever seen or read “Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” you know about how Lucy and Peter and the others stumble upon an innocuous wardrobe—like a kind of closet. They open the door and enter into it. But it’s unlike anything they could have possibly ever imagined. The closet opens up to a whole new world of beauty and adventure and everything beyond our most satisfying of dreams.
That’s the tomb.
The stone of the tomb is the door of the entry to eternal life and the new world. I imagine Peter and John walking in and it’s just a dark tomb, but interiorly—here, in their heart—something is opening up, new life is coming forward. Something powerful. Something extraordinary. Something… definitive.
The Challenge of Easter
This is the challenge of Easter. You see, Good Friday challenges our sensibilities in saying that God Loves us unto death. Easter Sunday comforts us by saying that God’s love is yesterday, today, and forever. That His love is definitive—more definitive than death.
The challenge of Easter, then, is this tomb. This tomb is the doorway. It is the open door, the open invitation, the open challenge to us from God who says, “And you? Is your love for me… definitive? Are you willing to die for it? To enter the tomb of definitive, committed love for me?”
And that scares me. I’m scared of the tomb. It appears dark. And what if I enter in and am disappointed? What if I enter in and the door swings shut and locks and I’m stuck? What if what is definitive… is not in my favor?
I am doubting.
The Lord invites us: Come and see. Enter into a love that is definitive. Give your life for this love.
I can tell you from personal experience that while entry is the ultimate in adventure and the summation of every test of intestinal fortitude, there is a whole new beautiful amazing world in this choice of definitive love. I was not always a priest. I was once a bad Catholic. I had great doubts as I studied at Washington University. And I came to the realization that there was one doubt that I never doubted: my own doubt!
As silly as it sounds, sometimes we have to doubt our doubt. Sometimes we have to choose to have something more definitive than our own doubt. And this meant love. To love with all my mind, heart, and strength. And to love the greatest of all loves: Love Himself.
I entered the tomb. Entry was something as simple and yet terrifyingly difficult as getting on my knees one night and praying to God, admitting that I was not and that He is and that, without Him, I was nothing; I was dead.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would be here with you, here at #CatholicHappyLand, the largest parish in the State of Missouri! (And I’m an introvert!) But it is beautiful here—and not just here, but the Catholic faith. And how suffering has meaning. And how so many people enter into my life and I’m getting to go deeper in love again and again. What a beautiful, wonderful, amazing life!
And I thought that being religious meant death!
And I thought that being religious meant death!
This is the challenge of Easter and its beautiful promise.
Let Us Go Together!
Notice: John and Peter entered the tomb together. Let us do the same. Let us go together! You are not alone! If you have fallen away from the faith, we are here to help you come back! And I know it can be difficult to return and to find out how to do things or to admit certain things or to struggle with some aspects of being part of a community—but let us enter this together! You are not alone!
If you doubt, come! Come let us see together! If you are grieving, if you are hurting, if you are with Mary Magdalene, weeping about the world and about love—let us go together and see! See, love is yesterday, today, and forever! There is new life won for us on Good Friday and it is open now to us today!
I don’t know about you, but I need this love. I am not a good person without Him. My love is so yesterday and so barely today. I want a love that is forever. I want to love forever. I don’t want my love to be a flash-in-the-pan, here today but gone next Sunday.
What do you want? Do you want eternal life? Do you want Love that is forever?
Then let us go together! To Jesus, our Risen Lord: Love! Yesterday, Today, and Forever!