NB. No Mass at OLR this evening, so here's an Easter homily from 2014.
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
No one sees him rise. The grave stone is rolled away. His tomb is empty. The burial shroud neatly folded and left behind. Our Lord is nowhere to be found. Mary Magdala finds all this, evidence of theft, evidence of sacrilege and runs to Simon Peter, reporting, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” Mary did not see him rise. Neither did Simon Peter nor John the beloved disciple. No one sees him rise. No one who visits the tomb that morning knows what happened. Why? Because “they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” He had to rise from the dead. And because he emptied his tomb that morning, rising to new life with the Father, we too are raised to new life. His resurrection from an ignominious death gathers us all up and treats us to the possibility, the promise of deathless lives lived in the unfiltered presence of God the Father Himself. And so, Paul declares, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above. . .Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” Seek what is above, and ask yourself: where have I put Christ?
Where is Christ? Mary finds the tomb empty. Peter and John find the tomb empty. Their Lord's body is missing, and they do not know where the grave robbers have taken him. These three disciples believe that Jesus' body has been stolen b/c they do no understand – yet – that he had to rise from the dead. Do we understand this any better? We do, but then we have a 2,000 year advantage: centuries of personal testimony, libraries jammed with theological treatises, the sanctifying assistance of the Holy Spirit, the magisterium of the Church. We certainly understand the resurrection better than Mary, Peter, and John did back then. But understanding is not believing. Understanding is not trusting. When we believe in someone, trust someone that someone becomes for us the measure and means of how we live. Not just the center but the very foundation, the whole structure of our being. Knowing this, Paul writes, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above. . .” If you truly seek what is above, then you can answer the question: where have you put Christ? Where is he in your life? Have you set him aside as a decoration? An observer? Have you placed him on a shelf to be seen but not heard? If we believe in, trust in the Risen Lord, he must be more than a necklace charm, more than a dashboard saint. He must be the Lord of our lives. The means and measure of our everyday thoughts, words, and deeds. Everything we have and are is his and his alone.
What does all this mean? The resurrection is all about new life, new beginnings, a fresh start in an old world eaten through with corruption and bitter disobedience. The resurrection is all about leaving behind our old ways and taking up The Way in Christ, following after him toward the perfection of holiness. Yes, all of that. But more. Much, much more. You see, if you believe in, trust in the Risen Lord; if you give everything you are and everything you have back to him for his use in bringing the Kingdom to fruition; if you follow him, sacrificing for love of him and giving that love a body and soul in this world; then, you become Christ. Not just a follower. Not just an attendee. You fulfill your baptismal vows and become Christ. Paul says it, “For you have died [in baptism], and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” To hide your life in the life of Christ means that you have placed Christ above you, over you, hiding within his life so that yours is indistinguishable from his. The resurrection makes it possible for us to hide in Christ. Our human nature is made new in the resurrection. We have joined him in death, now we can join him in life eternal.
That promise – eternal life – is our Easter promise. We hide our lives in Christ so that his work is our work, his mind is our mind, his body is our body. In faith, we are bound to him. So much so that Paul says, “When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.” But to be bound to him takes more than understanding. It takes much more than just knowing the story of the resurrection, knowing the details of the tale. The resurrection gives us the authority and the power to act, to speak, to think with the heart and mind of our Risen Lord. Until he comes again, we are his Body. Until he comes again, we are his hands and feet. We are not Pilate, fidgeting over politics, making carefully crafted decisions with an eye on our reputations. We are not the crowd in Jerusalem, frothing for blood and easy victory. We are not the Roman soldiers at Golgotha, just obeying lawful orders. And neither are we Mary, Peter, or John, despairing at the loss of Christ b/c we do not yet understand. We know what has happened. We know what is happening. Christ is risen. With the Father, he lives. In his Church, he lives. And if we hide ourselves in his risen life, he lives in this world. No one sees him rise. But everyone is watching to see if his Church will rise. Show the world the Risen Christ. In your words and deeds, show them Christ!
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