Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Rev. David Justin Lynch
April 09, 2023 10:30 AM
Acts 10:34A;37-42 | Psalm 118:1-2;16-17;22-23
Colossians 3:1-4 | John 20:1-9
+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN.
The world outside the church is a rational and scientifically-based world.
Out there, reality has come to consist of that which we perceive through our five physical senses. What we see, what we hear, what we feel, what we smell, and what we taste determines whatever exists.
Out there, whatever we cannot see, or cannot hear, or cannot feel, or cannot smell, or cannot taste, is not in the realm of reality and, therefore, does not exist.
This so-called “rational” approach to the world arose from what historians call the “Age of Enlightenment,” a European Eighteenth Century philosophical movement characterized by suspicion or hostility toward other forms or carriers of authority (such as tradition, superstition, prejudice, myth, and miracles), insofar as these are seen to compete with the authority of one’s own reason and experience.
Enlightenment philosophy stands in tension with established religion. It characterizes itself as the release from self-incurred immaturity in this age, daring to think for oneself, awakening one’s intellectual powers, and generally is said to require opposing the role of established religion in directing thought and action.
The sole reliance on our five physical senses has become the mark of a sane human person. For many people, that is an excuse to exclude God from their lives God or even anything associated with God. To these so-called rational sorts of people, any notion of a resurrection of dead people is laughable.
Ditto for any idea that Jesus was born of a virgin.
Ditto for any idea that the Bread and Wine we consecrate at Mass become the actual Body and Blood of Jesus.
Ditto for any idea of miraculous healings that Jesus performed.
To these so-called rational sorts of people, anything that does not arise from concrete experience as they know it simply never happened, does not exist, and is a colossal waste of time and resources. So it is not surprising that many people in our country reject the notion of a resurrection. Today’s churches are not as full on Easter Sunday as they were in former years.
People don’t go to church on Easter or on other Sundays for at least two reasons.
The first is the notion of a bodily resurrection defies the rational logic to which the world has been so accustomed. We don’t see dead people walking out of cemeteries.
Second, the public has become ecclesia-phobic. They don’t like church because it’s church. Why? Some churches don’t seem to walk the walk as well as they talk the talk. They preach love on Sunday but support the death penalty on Monday, or even worse, they don’t ordain women, they don’t marry same-sex couples, and they commit numerous other sins of sacramental injustice. Thus, Church no longer makes sense to the public, so they simply don’t go. The empty chairs we see here most Sundays are a manifestation of that. How I wish we could, in some way, convince the world that we here at Saint Cecilia Catholic Community stand unwaveringly for sacramental justice.
So where does that leave those of us worshipping here this Easter morning, welcoming the Resurrection of Jesus in prayer, scripture, and song? Why are we here, doing what we are doing?
We are here because we have accepted the idea that rational, physical-world-based thinking is not the ultimate and only way to perceive the total reality of the Universe. Many people, in fact, too many people, view the world in a dualistic, black-and-white, either-or way. By contrast, we are open to ways of perception that supplement fact-based rationality. For us, life is a both-and, not an either-or.
One of the ways we perceive the world beyond our five senses is by opening ourselves to the idea of mystery.
So, what exactly is a mystery? God wants to communicate to the world his divine life and himself to “dwell” in the world, to become human, in order to make humankind a god as well. That idea transcends the limits of human imagination and daring.
The mystery of God’s love is among those things “hidden from the beginning in God.” At no other time do we experience that more than on Easter Sunday. Dead people waking up is not part of our everyday reality. It is in the realm of mystery.
In biblical literature, the word “mystery” is used in two distinctive ways. First, it is used to describe the plan of God, that is, the purpose of God in history, God’s eternal purpose and sovereignty; and second, it is used to explicate the thing or the situation which is the medium by which God is disclosed. The Resurrection of Jesus fits nicely into both prongs of that definition.
The first part of this definition goes to what God is, known among theologians as God’s essence, while the second part is about what God does, which theologians call God’s energies. Here on earth, we experience God through God’s energies, while after life on this earth, we experience God’s essence, which is an unknowable mystery.
While we are kept wondering about who God truly is, the meaning of Christian life is to assimilate into God’s ultimate plan for us. That is, God wants us to become like God and become part of God. As Saint Athanasius tells us, God created humanity so that humanity can become God. In baptism, we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. As such, we are baptized into Christ’s person and united with him. Throughout our earthly life, we participate with God in God’s ongoing creation of the Universe.
God’s ultimate purpose is to create a kingdom of people from every tribe and nation, to dwell in God’s presence, glorifying God throughout their lives and enjoying God forever.
The Resurrection is part of how God’s plan is carried out to make that happen. Why? Because the Resurrection demonstrates God’s power.
In the Resurrection, the power of God shows us through Jesus the promise of the immortality of our souls. In the Story of Lazarus from the Gospel of John, Jesus proclaims to us,
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
What Jesus is saying is that Resurrection from the dead and genuine eternal life in fellowship with God are so closely tied to Jesus that they are embodied in him.
In the Resurrection, the power of God is demonstrated through the victory of Jesus over sin and death. Saint Paul reminds us that the result of sin is death, and that death is the last enemy to be destroyed.
In the Resurrection, God affirms that the Devil cannot win the battle between good and evil.
In the Resurrection, the power of God is demonstrated as God’s clear signal that Jesus is God’s powerful Son who has conquered death and reigns as Lord of all.
All that having been said, how the resurrection actually happened is ultimately unknowable. It is a mystery. The unfathomable character of the Resurrection, as perceived by the human mind, creates the consequent impossibility of depicting it. That is why there is an absence of any depiction of the actual moment in traditional iconography.
Indeed, the Bible does not tell us explicitly that a dead and buried Jesus stood up and walked out of the tomb. Yet people saw visions of him after he had died. Was Jesus actually among his followers in the same fleshly way he was during his earthly life? No.
In the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, Saint Paul answers the question, “How are the dead raised?” The Resurrection of Jesus was not a resuscitation of his dead body like sometimes occurs in hospital emergency rooms. What happened in the Resurrection of Jesus is that while his physical body died, his spiritual body arose. His spiritual body was capable of things that his physical body was not, as shown in descriptions of his post-Resurrection appearance.
In next week’s Gospel, we will hear that Jesus entered a room where the doors were locked. And in the Gospel of Luke, two of the two Disciples of Jesus saw him vanish from their sight after they had met him on the road to Emmaus. So no, the physical body of Jesus was not the same body experienced by his Disciples after the Resurrection.
As with many Biblical stories, the value of the Resurrection story to us is not as a historical fact but as the meaning that story has for us. The facts may not necessarily be true, but their underlying message is what is true. So what is the truth underlying the Resurrection?
The Resurrection of Jesus is the conquest of spiritual death.
The Resurrection of Jesus is the assertion of life itself as the primary of existence.
The Resurrection of Jesus is a change of mind about what the world means.
The Resurrection of Jesus reverses how the world thinks about itself.
The Resurrection of Jesus is a recognition that life is our everlasting salvation in the Kingdom of Heaven and that all pain and grief are consigned to Hell.
The Resurrection of Jesus makes all living hearts become tranquil with a stir of deep anticipation.
The Resurrection of Jesus draws us closer to the time of everlasting things.
The Resurrection of Jesus obliterates any fear of death.
The Resurrection of Jesus freed God’s Son. His freedom ends our fears.
The Resurrection of Jesus shines a light into all the hidden places now remaining on earth that shelter sick illusions and misperceptions of the universe.
The Resurrection of Jesus illuminates all things illuminated such that their purposes are transformed and understood.
The Resurrection of Jesus was more than a historical moment.
The Resurrection of Jesus represents the abolition of death.
The Resurrection of Jesus is simultaneously the Resurrection of all humanity. It is not only the Resurrection of Jesus but a majestic universal event, a cosmic event in which Jesus comes out from among the dead.
The Resurrection of Jesus is not merely of paramount historical importance, but it overarches history by orientating it towards a new world, a new life, completely different from the conventional life of decay, strife, and death.
But what does the Resurrection mean for us in the Twenty-First Century in the world you will encounter as you leave Mass today?
First, the Resurrection, as a mystery, reminds us that the world we experience through our five senses is not the sum total of reality. The Resurrection reminds us that we, as human persons are not capable of understanding the entire universe. Science does not explain everything.
Second, the Resurrection reminds us that we do not have total power over everyone and everything that affects us. Like it or not, there are forces in the Universe that are more powerful than you are.
Third, the non-violent attribute of the Resurrection reminds us that in the final analysis, non-violence always wins. Force and fear of force may temporarily control people, but to change people, you need to fundamentally change hearts and minds without violence.
So when you leave here today, allow the power of the Resurrection to change your heart and your mind. Allow the power of the Resurrection to run your life.
Let the Resurrection teach you that what lies ahead is more important than what you leave behind in your own life and in your relationships with other people.
Let the Resurrection remind you that you are in an eternal relationship with God, no matter how you conceive of what God is or is not.
Let the Resurrection show you that God is always there to unconditionally love you, no matter what you think of God or even whether or not you pay attention to God.
Let the Resurrection remind you that, no matter hopeless your life situation, it will get better, sooner or later.
Let the Resurrection transform you, just as the Resurrection was, in and of itself, a transformation. The culmination of Christian life is not only influenced by Christ’s commands and example but also transformed by his grace.
The Resurrection is not only an Easter story considered once a year.
It is our daily truth.
It is our lifeline.
It is our hope.
Whether we recognize it or not, the Resurrection can be, and must be, our truth, our lifeline, and our hope.
The Resurrection constantly reminds us that no matter what we face today, what we’ve been through in the past, or what uncertainties are still ahead in all our tomorrows, Christ alone is our steadfast hope. Let the Resurrection be your eternal tomorrow, tu mañana por los siglos de los siglos. AMEN.