Bishop Murphy’s Easter Sunday Homily
Christ is risen! Christ is truly Risen! Throughout the world from the very beginnings of the Church this has been the cry that gives us our identity. This is the truth that changes everything and everyone. Yet that first Easter morning which was described by John in the Gospel was anything but an instantaneous cry of joy and proclamation of belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
First Mary Magdalene who went there with a simple desire: anoint his body and shed a few tears of sadness and loss. How appropriate that was, given that she and a few other women alone were the Church of love standing at the foot of the cross with Mary the Mother of God when Jesus breathed his last. With the same love and care she goes to anoint his body. But human caring became ever so human fear. And in fear and trembling she ran to the two disciples, Peter and John. They couldn’t figure it out either. In that morning all three went from unbelief to a kind of “maybe, just maybe” till finally John tells us that, after Peter checked everything out, He saw and he believed, although they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
My guess is that all of us gathered here today and watching on Telecare together, right now, represent all those emotions. Yes, we do believe that Jesus rose from the dead that first Easter. The majority accept this and are thankful for what this means for us as believers. But I bet some of us are a bit skeptical; others are struggling to believe. Some are vacillating. Perhaps one or two of you may be here because your wife told you there would be no dinner if you didn’t go to Church! But we ARE here and we all today, with one voice and one heart, proclaim the one truth that can never be extinguished because it is the truth that makes us truly free: JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN. HE IS TRULY RISEN. ALLELUIA!
Earlier this morning that truth was proclaimed to the world by the successor of St. Peter, Pope Francis. As he announced this cry of liberation and renewal, he became for the first time part of that unending chain from Peter to Francis who for more than 2000 years has affirmed and re-affirmed the most important bedrock act of faith: Jesus’ resurrection is the triumph of Jesus over sin and death. This is the triumph for all humankind who have been saved by the merciful providence of a good and gracious God who sent His Son for just this purpose; the son who fulfilled his mission on the cross and now is risen from the dead.
Look for the moment at the person of Peter in the Gospel and Peter in the first reading. When John went first into the empty tomb, he looked and deferred to Peter who, as the head of the apostles even then had the duty to make certain what had happened and declare what it meant. At that moment of acceptance of the great truth of the resurrection, Peter was affirmed in his mission which was to be the first witness to resurrection to confirm his brethren in the faith and to lead the “little flock,” the Church, in unity and charity. This very mission we see him practicing in Antioch when he recognizes and preaches that God was with Jesus and raised him on the third day and granted that he is visible and we are the witnesses chosen by God in advance who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
While Peter and the apostles were the first witnesses, the mission to witness Jesus is not for the apostles and us bishops alone. It belongs to us all who profess our faith in Jesus’ victory over sin and death. We too are the witnesses in our own day. And how much does this world need witnesses to the truth of Jesus Christ! How much do we need ourselves to be ever more credible witnesses to those truths by which we are called to live in the worlds of family, parish, community, nation and world.
You, my friends, along with all of us who make up the Body of Christ, are the new yeast. You who proclaim Jesus’ triumph now share his mission to live in such a way that you are the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, witnesses to the truth, men and women who live by that truth. And how much does this world need you and your witness!
In our own communities, we need to pay heed to young people and offer them not the stone of indifference or the evil of bad example but the bread of a good life that is honest and truthful. How often do we read of neighbors whose lives seem bent on exploitation of others through cheating in the market ore falsifying claims in the workplace. How often do we give young people the bad example of misuse of alcohol; and “recreational” use of drugs or lives that make a mockery of healthy and loving relationships.
In our country we have the glorification of same sex marriage as a great act of liberation while it is in reality a denial of God’s creative purpose that only complicates and makes more difficult our pursuit of a healthy society. Religious freedom remains under threat in our land and not just in other countries where injustice and despotism hold sway. Men and women of all religions are being put to death for their faith. And of those, 75 out of 100 persons killed for their religious faith are Christians.
Across the world terrorism still holds sway in too many places. The Middle East continues to be in turmoil with nations threatening one another. Think of the suffering in Syria! Internal divisions are being played out through violence with other nations, including our own, exacerbating dire conditions and woeful living situations of simple citizens and especially the poor who always are the first to suffer and the last to be able to recover. Women and children are still sold into slavery. And human goodness and respect for others is a scarce commodity.
Our dear and already beloved Pope Francis began his service to the universal Church under the guidance of St. Joseph. He called us to be like Joseph, to be protectors of others. I make his words mine. Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation. This means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, for children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think of. Caring and protecting demands goodness. It calls for a certain tenderness. To protect every man and woman is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds. For us Christians, the hope that we bring is set within the horizon of God, a horizon opened for us by Christ.
Together today we have the means to make all things new. Why? How? One answer: The great truth! Jesus Christ! Yes! He died for us! Yes! He conquered sin and death forever! Yes! He is truly Risen! And we are the witnesses who proclaim that God has raised him up and given him the name that is above every name that we might profess to the glory of God the Father: JESUS CHRIST IS LORD! AMEN! ALLELUIA!