April 12, 2020

Easter Homily: Follow the Risen Lord, transform the world

Most Reverend Charles C. Thompson(Following is Archbishop Charles C. Thompson’s homily for the Easter Sunday liturgy celebrated on April 12 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.)

It is not supposed to be this way. An empty cathedral, empty churches, “stay in place,” people being diagnosed with a scary virus by the thousands, people dying by the hundreds here in 2020. This isn’t how Easter is supposed to be for Christians. Empty tomb, yes, but not places of worship.

The same would have been speculated among the Apostles and other disciples on that first Easter morning. Locked in a secret room together, in fear and trepidation, disillusioned and demoralized, they had to be thinking and saying to one another, “It’s not supposed to be this way.” The long-awaited Messiah, the Christ, was not supposed to go out like this—condemned as a criminal, mocked, humiliated, beaten, abandoned, crucified and killed. A showdown with evil, yes, but not defeat.

Perhaps this is yet another opportunity to stop thinking about how it is supposed to be on human terms, to be a bit more focused on the will of God. After all, from glorious beginning to bitter end, and beyond, Jesus remained keenly focused on the will of the Father in all things. In giving us the perfect prayer, the Our Father, He instructed us to do the same.

What may the Lord be desiring or doing for us in this given moment? This is not to say that God willed this pandemic on humanity. However, we might consider how the Lord may use this seeming tragedy to bring about further transformation in our world, our lives, our minds and hearts—he certainly did it with the cross. Just how is it supposed to be?

The Apostles were forced to ponder this very question in a very short period of time. As a result, their sadness and misery were transformed into incredulous joy and great rejoicing. Having been informed by Mary Magdalene about the empty tomb early on that first Easter morning, Peter and the beloved disciple ran to check everything out for themselves. Upon entering, still not yet able to understand what had taken place, we are told that the beloved disciple “saw and believed” (Jn 20:8).

Results of the Apostles later encountering the Risen Lord Jesus Christ on that first Easter Sunday are recorded in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 10:34, 37-43). Peter, having moved from despair to hope to assurance, boldly proclaims that Jesus Christ had been risen from the dead, commissioning him and the other disciples to give personal witness and preach the Good News to all people—the same commissioning, down to our own day. In his letter to the Colossians (Col 3:1-4), reminding us that we have been raised with Christ, Paul exhorts us to seek what is above, what is of God, rather than settling for merely what Earth has to offer.

Despite the sadness and hardship of not being able to gather as Church, the Body of Christ, the fact remains that this is Easter Sunday, the Day of Resurrection. Regardless of what we might think that it is supposed to be, we have cause to rejoice in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, who has conquered sin and death for our salvation.

Our faith continues to seek understanding the will of the Father, the mission of the Son and the guidance of the Spirit.

At some point, the Risen Lord will enable us to emerge from locked doors of confinement and gather again in His name. In the meantime, we continue to embrace Him, to pray for one another, to proclaim the Good News by the witness of our lives, and to persevere in faith and hope, even in assurance. This day above all, let our hearts and minds be raised with Him to what is above and beyond anything of this world.

This is indeed the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. Let us go forth this day in assurance: The Lord is Risen; our Salvation is at hand. Alleluia! †

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