Easter, along with Christmas, is a very challenging day to preach.
The challenge for anyone delivering a homily on the day though is you have people from all walks of life present at Masses, which are fuller than normal, and you want to make the story relevant to their lives. Much like at Christmas where we know the story, trying to give those at Mass something to think about can be a challenge.
At the time of this writing, I haven’t finished my homily yet. I’m aiming for no longer than 26 or 27 minutes, tops.
Actually that’s a preaching tactic called the “attention grabber.” I figured it might work for a bulletin column too.
While I haven’t finished Easter’s homily yet (though I and my close personal friend Betty Crocker did just finish a batch of chocolate chip cookies, the first I’ve ever baked if you can believe it – one needs fuel for writing these columns. And yes, they turned out pretty good, mostly in circular shapes, but I digress…) one of the things I think I will likely focus on in part is a theme of “transformation.”
One of the things on Palm Sunday and Good Friday as we reflect on the Passion that stands out is the hidden aspect of sin in how so much of what we can do we can dismiss or ignore, but how sin inevitably comes to the surface. Cowardice, jealousy, envy, hate in the heart – it’s all there on display. But as we look at the Passion, we also see the hidden goodness inside all of us in that Jesus reveals our potential. All of us can love as He loved. And, through the apostles, we see how they too are transformed into people who are so full of this hope for heaven and so much on fire for God that they boldly proclaim Christ crucified and risen. It’s quite a contrast from where they were on Good Friday, scattered and hiding behind locked doors. And so, the challenge for us is to let Jesus transform us.
If you are reading this, it means you have come to celebrate Mass on Easter, and I’m glad you are here. But my hope too is that coming to Mass is just one of many things you look at to have a deeper faith life, and that you use this day as a real springboard for your faith.
For one, know that you are always welcome at Mass at Saint Joe’s. By encountering Jesus in the Word and the Eucharist, we are given food for the journey. If you have been away for a while, consider making our Masses a weekly part of our life. Just as we go to the gas station to fuel our car, we need to come to receive spiritual fuel for the challenges life brings.
Secondly, repent. That was the goal during Lent, but we don’t somehow stop falling into sin once we get to Easter. Remember those words of Ash Wednesday: repent and be faithful to the Gospel. So much occupies our time these days, and while it’s OK to be busy, your call is not to have the perfect job, the most awards, or tangible things. Your call is to become a saint. Look at your shadows by daily examining your conscience and ask yourself how you can daily become a better person. Jesus has shown us how as we’ve reflected on the greatest love story ever told over these past few days. The resurrection is God’s triumph over death, and reminds us of how much God loves us. We have to respond to that though by striving to continually become better people. On Ash Wednesday as we began Lent, some opted to give up things such as candy, pop, etc. Those practices are well and fine, but the point of Lent was to ask ourselves questions such as “who am I?” and “where am I going in life” and “where’s my focus” and “what’s lacking?” The effects of sin and bad decisions are very subtle. Little by little though, sin damages our relationship with God and one another. We need to continually become better people, which happens through daily growing in virtue.
Next, go above and beyond of what is asked of you. Being a Christian is a 24/7/365 affair. The story of what Jesus did for us is the greatest love story ever told, and Easter, when our Lord triumphs over death, shows us that sin, death and darkness do not have the last word, but that God does. God wants a relationship with you. The question is, do you want a relationship with Him? Our second reading says it best: “seek what is above.” If you’ve been away from Mass for a while, please consider joining us to hear God’s word and receive Him in the Eucharist. If you have been “too busy” for family lately, remember family means more than a ham dinner once or twice a year – rekindle those connections. If you find your time is spent more on your own activities, make time for other people and for volunteering. Seek what is above, for the rest turns to ashes.
Finally, remember we have the power to do what Jesus did and change the world. There’s so much hurt out there and so many people who are lost. Jesus through His selfless act on the Cross and through His ministry changes lives; people see that sacrifice and are moved to become better people and reform their lives. Open your eyes to see who may need you to help transform them by being more present to them.
Have a blessed Easter, and remember we’re here every Saturday night and three times on Sunday. Today is not the finish line of Lent. Today is a reminder of who we can become if we strive to live and love as our Lord – may we daily commit to running the race home to Him well.