09 April 2012

From fear to joy. . .

Octave of Easter (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

We have two stories of fear this morning. Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, discover Christ's empty tomb. “Fearful yet overjoyed,” they start to run back to the other disciples to report that their Lord's body is missing. Meanwhile, the temple guards report to the chief priests “all that has happened.” Afraid that the story of the missing body will be heard as evidence of Jesus' authenticity, the priests and elders bribe the guards to spread a false story about how the disciples removed their teacher's corpse from the tomb. The disciples are afraid. The priests, elders, and guards are afraid. Everyone it seems is brimming with fear this Easter Monday morning. The two Mary's flee the empty tomb. The guards run to the chief priests. The chief priests bribe the guards. And the guards accept the bribe. Everyone is afraid and everyone deals with their fear differently. However, our Lord appears to the Mary's and says to them, “Do not be afraid.” He changes their fear into a mission, “Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” In the presence of the Risen Christ, our fear, worry, anxiety are transformed into a passion for spreading the Good News of the God's providence and mercy!

Anyone who tells you that there's nothing to fear in this world is lying. In the news just this morning: Syria is waging a civil war; N Korea is threatening to attack its neighbors; racial violence is on the rise all over the U.S.; Islamic extremists are taking power in Egypt and Liyba; 38 Nigerian Catholics were killed Easter morning during Mass by two car bombs; there is civil unrest in China; and the religious freedoms of western democracies are under attack in Europe, Canada, and the U.S. Our Holy Father, Benedict, said in his Easter homily that “darkness threatens mankind.” There is much to fear but there is no reason to be afraid. In the presence of the Risen Christ, fear is transformed into a passion for giving witness to the victory of life over death, the victory of truth over falsehood, the victory of light over darkness! The bloody cross of Good Friday yields the empty tomb of Easter Morning. Having been students at the feet of Jesus, the Mary's know this truth, so they are “fearful yet overjoyed” at finding his body missing. And when the Christ appears to them and says, “Do not be afraid,” they begin their mission to spread the good news of his resurrection.

We are in the presence of the Risen Christ this morning. Any fear we may be feeling; any anxiety we may be nurturing; any despair, disappointment, anger, dissatisfaction, emptiness—any and all of the disordered passions we are capable of experiencing, all of them can be transformed into a passion for living the Good News and spreading word of God's mercy. How? When the Risen Christ appears to the fearful Mary's, they “approached [him], embraced his feet, and did him homage.” They go to Christ; they receive him as their Lord; and they give to him the honor and glory due his name. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid of mockery or death; do not be afraid of your failures, or your flaws. Joy overwhelms fear. Joy overcomes all obstacles, breaks all barriers. Set your minds on the sure knowledge that Christ's victory is complete. Death is defeated. You have died in Christ. A new life in him awaits. The battle is won; the war is over. Victory goes to our King. From an empty tomb, victory has always and will always go to the Risen Christ!

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