31 March 2013

The tomb is empty!

NB. When I first preached this homily at the Univ of Dallas chapel in 2006, it was something of an experiment for me. Would the very traditional, very conservative U.D. community respond well to this type of preaching?  They did!  So, I thought I'd try it out on a regular parish. It worked quite well.

Easter Sunday 2013
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Holy Ghost, Hammond, LA

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Are you here this morning, Church? [Yes] Royal Priests! [Yes] People of God! [Yes] Holy Nation! [Yes] Pilgrim Church! [Yes] Sons and Daughters of the Most High! [Yes], Brothers and Sisters [Yes], then you know what has happened! Christ Jesus the Lord is risen from the tomb! [Amen] He was sold in betrayal by a friend for the price of a murdered slave! He was denied by His best friends when He needed them most! He was falsely accused of blasphemy by His own people, found guilty on perjured testimony, and given to Pilate for judgment! He was bartered for a murderer with a riotous mob and given to Roman soldiers to be scourged! He was crowned with thorns, robed in purple, mocked and spat upon, and hailed as the King of the Jews! And, finally, in the place of Skulls, He was nailed hands and feet to the Cross to die forsaken! But you know what has happened! Christ Jesus the Lord is risen from the tomb! The stone is rolled away. His burial cloth thrown to the ground. The tomb is empty. 

You know what has happened! But do you know what it means? The disciples, seeing the rolled-away stone, the empty tomb and the burial cloth did not yet understand. And it is no simple matter to say “yes” when asked: do you believe in 2013 that a man who hung on a cross, who was dead and buried for three days, has somehow sprung to live and walked away from his grave? How do you say “yes” to that absurdity? How does anyone in their right mind say to “yes” to that!? I say, it is precisely b/c you are in your Right Mind, your righteous mind, that you say YES to the Rolled Away Stone [Yes], that you say YES to the Empty Tomb [Yes], and that you say AMEN to what you know has happened: Christ Jesus the Lord is risen from the dead! [Amen] 

We are not here this morning to celebrate a pagan regeneration myth. Jesus was not raised from the tomb b/c a god of a myth must rise from the dead so the flowers and grains of the Earth might rise in spring. No. We are not here this morning to celebrate the defeat of our subconscious’ death wish. Jesus was not raised from the tomb because our neuroses need fuel for another year. No. We are not here this morning to celebrate the triumph of an archetypal Hero over an archetypal Death. Jesus was not raised from the tomb because we need a Jungian happy-ending to our quest. No. We are not here this morning to celebrate the triumph of empowered self-esteem over the oppressive, patriarchal structures of organized religion. No. Jesus was not raised from the tomb because our pet-ideologies would be empty without some revolutionary symbol of victory. No. 

We are here this morning to celebrate the triumph of New Life over Death, Creation over Chaos, the Goodness of Being over the Evil of Nothingness, the triumph of Freedom over Sin. The tomb is empty because God raised His murdered Son from an ignoble death to New Life. The tomb is empty because the living do not live in the grave! The living have no need of burial clothes! The living say YES to the Father [Yes] and Amen to a glorious life lived in the sure faith of the Resurrection! [Amen] 

It is easy to say YES and AMEN on Easter Sunday.  The account of the Empty Tomb is still fresh in our hearts and minds. The courage of Mary Magdala’s witness to the cowardly disciples still stirs in us. But let’s be honest: the long 50 day march to Pentecost will see our fervor fade, our energy wane, and the alleluia’s of this Easter morning will droop with these lilies. We will find ourselves before long in the Upper Room cowering with the remnant of Jesus’ once mighty band, wondering what idiocy possessed us to witness to the ridiculous notion that a dead man rose to life and starting popping up all over the city and chatting with people. We hope for the coming of the Holy Spirit to put us back in our right mind, but we have fifty days of Easter to live faithfully. How? 

 If Palm Sunday is about welcoming the soon-to-be tortured and executed Lord into our lives and Good Friday is about witnessing His suffering for our sakes and Easter Sunday is about celebrating the New Life of the Empty Tomb, then our fifty days to the coming of the Holy Spirit needs to be about gratitude, about giving thanks. We have immediate access to the abundant blessings of the Father through gratitude. Gratitude does two things for us spiritually: first, gratitude is a confession that everything we are and everything we have comes from the Father—we are completely dependent on Him; and second, when we gratefully accept the gifts we are given by God, we become willing beneficiaries of His abundant goodness. 

We deny ourselves the benefits of the Resurrection by living lives of entitlement (I am deserving w/o costs!), by living lives of victimization (My problems are someone’s fault!), by living lives of denial (That’s not me!), and by living our lives wallowing in hurt (I will never forgive!). Do not deny yourselves the benefits of the Resurrection. 

Practice Easter Gratitude instead! Pray daily to the Father, our Abundant Provider and generous Lord: In You I live and move and have my being. Everything I am and everything I have is Your blessing. This day I offer it all to Your service. Thank you, Lord, for this season of my life, for the gifts You have given me, for those I love and who love me in return. Thank You, Lord, for Your creation, for Your revelation in scripture, for our salvation in Christ Jesus, for the holiness I await in the coming of the Holy Spirit, and for the Church that will rise from the tongues of fire. Make gratitude my constant prayer, Father, so that I may live as a Living Blessing for others. Pray for these in name of our Easter Lord, Jesus Christ! 

The tomb is empty, brothers and sisters! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Are you here this morning, Church? [Yes] Royal Priests! [Yes] People of God! [Yes] Holy Nation! [Yes] Pilgrim Church! [Yes] Sons and Daughters of the Most High! [Yes], Brothers and Sisters [Yes], then you know what has happened! Christ Jesus the Lord is risen from the tomb! [Amen]
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12 comments:

  1. So Vintage Fr. PNP worked for Holy Ghost...? Why wouldn't it?

    Happy Easter, Fr. Thanks for having taken a substantial role in a spiritually rewarding Lent, as this last one was for me.

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  2. My son said it was very enthusiastic! I haven't read it, yet.

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  3. Anonymous5:24 PM

    Amazing! Totally cool! How I would have loved to hear a homily like that! If your people did not jump out of their seats and shout for joy, it's only because of a natural reserve that we've learned as adults. But this is the time to lose that. We are born again! We are children! Jump up and down with joy and laughter! God, our God, has blessed us! He loves us! Alleluia!

    A 70 year-old child...

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    1. They responded with a little encouragement. . .no seat jumping but once they got going, it was going.

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  4. Enthusiastic? Check. Made me smile? Check. It was a good antidote to the heaviness that was last week . . . though I wish I could have heard it, because I really feel like I lost a lot in merely reading it. I bet it was fun to preach with a receptive congregation! Thanks much.

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    1. I was determined to bring my recorder. . .but didn't. . .b/c I have an over-caffeinated squirrel brain.

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  5. Anonymous1:15 AM

    I am writing from Rome. All over the years, it is the best and cool Easter's Homily I heard. A true call to be joyful. How could we call ourselves Christians, if Easter does not make joyful and sure that "Death will not rule again" (St Paul's epistle to Colossians and Dylan Thomas too) and that "Vhrist is really risen from Deads". Good Easter

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Are you an American in Rome?

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    2. francesco2:13 PM

      No. Italian with "some" biblical and theological background (at University and at PUG, teacher of Catholic religion and Catechist in a Roman parish. I follow your blog and i find it quite interesting (though I am perhaps a little on the center-left than you...)

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    3. Left of center!? Gasp. I didn't think anyone of your ilk read my blog. ;-)

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