WHAT FAITH IN THE RISEN ONE DOES
Happy Easter Everyone! Here is my homily for EASTER SUNDAY OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD - April 8, 2012. The readings for the day can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/040812.cfm . May prayers and best wishes that the Love and Life of the Risen Lord be with you and yours today and always!!! Fr. Jim
About a week ago, someone I know and have spoken to a few times over the years that I would not say is a “good friend” of mine, but we’ve been friendly...well he posted something on Facebook that I wish I hadn’t seen. Unfortunately on Facebook they have this ticker on the side so you get to see and read a whole host of things you might have missed. In any event, what he posted was a picture on the left which was a space shuttle blasting off into space and on the right side was a picture of one of the planes hitting the World Trade Center. Underneath each was a “tagline”. On the left it said: “Science will fly you to the moon.” and on the right it said: “Religion will fly you into a building.”
My initial reaction was that I was offended and really surprised that this guy would have posted something like that. Particularly because we have spoken about religion before and I never got the impression that he would have held that particular viewpoint. And the way it was expressed in such an overly general, simplistic way that seemed not only a bit unfair, but a bit less than truthful. Before I knew it, after expressing my disagreement with him, we got into a bit of a post-to-post debate that not surprisingly, never reached a conclusive resolution. What saddened me even more was that there were some people, who seeing our ongoing debate right there on their computer screens, decided to “Like” his initial post and added comments like “LOL” while others derided some of the points I was trying to make. The whole incident has left me feeling rather disturbed and unsettled ever since.
The more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that I’m sure I’m not the only person who has a family member or friend who has a similar dismissive attitude toward religion in general, even though they may not be expressing it on Facebook. It's no big secret that religion has been taking it on the chin in our culture over the last several decades while at the same time unquestionable belief in the power of science keeps reaching more exulted heights. I also couldn’t help but wonder where did such a certitude, dare I say “faith” in science - with such a complete dismissal of religion - originate from?
Because the battle between science and religion is nothing new. It’s been going on for centuries. And when we look at history, when it wasn’t science - there’s was always something that has been seen as being in competition with religion as having “the truth” (even though as Catholics we don’t see them in competition with one another and in fact see them as complementary)... But before science, there would be those who saw philosophy as “the truth.”. And at other times there’s been humanism, political ideology and secularism (which seems to be making a return in our day and age). The thing is, whether we realize it or not, or whether people want to use this type of language or not, ultimately we all have a choice as to what we place our faith in. And yes, we have to admit that many horrible things, which can hardly be defended, have taken place in the name of religion.
But Easter proclaims a different truth that demands our attention - reminding us that as Christians we don’t really put our faith in religion. Rather, we place our faith in a person, the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ - the one who was crucified and is risen from the dead. One famous historian (Jarislav Pelikan) reflecting on Jesus Christ remarked, “Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of western culture for almost twenty centuries. It is from his birth that most of the human race dates its calendars, it is by his name that millions curse and in his name that billions more pray.”
Had Jesus’ story ended on Good Friday - his story could have been categorized as yet another example of the harm that religion could do. In 2012 some people say “Religion flies people into a building” – well in 33 AD it could’ve been “Religion nails poor carpenters who preach love to a cross.” It could’ve been simply another chapter of a book told of the horrors of religious extremists.
Yet, look at what happened. Those same first followers, supposedly his closest, most trusted of friends who on Good Friday fled out of fear, out of embarrassment, out of shame at the moment Jesus needed them the most – so shaken to the core as they were by his Passion and Death, doubting all they had come to know and believe about Jesus over the 3 years they had spent with him, days later, as they see the tomb is empty, as they meet Christ appearing to them - risen, glorified - it transforms them... His Resurrection, His sharing His Holy Spirit upon them, fills them with this fantastical news that confirms in the heart of these believers that His Love, His life is greater than all there is in this world, greater than even Death itself. This Good News so consumes them that for the rest of their lives (and, for many of them, because of their belief, there lives would necessarily be short ones) they never ceased to go and preach about the wonders of this man...
And that’s how the entire world, believers and non-believers, have been transformed by the resurrected Christ. Because His followers not only took to heart all they had seen and heard, but put into action all that Jesus had taught in a way no other religious figure had ever done. Just consider a few examples:
We here in the United States have been fighting about Health Care – Before Christ, the sick weren’t cared for – they were abandoned, left for dead, avoided for fear of their being contagious or being spiritually unclean (and thus deserving the scourge and the isolation). The whole notion of “Health care” came about because He Lives, because He came back from the dead. Because of that, countless numbers of his followers have taken the selfless task of caring for, treating with love and compassion even more countless numbers of people because of Jesus’ Christ’s Gospel telling us that all human beings, all human life has dignity.
Before Christ, the homeless, hungry, naked, thirsty, were pitied - or again, viewed as being punished and somewhat deserving of their lot in life. But because He lives, because He came back fro the dead – just look at one statistic from a few years ago: in the city of Chicago alone 2.2 million meals were given to the Hungry and Needy – who are never asked if they are Catholic... they are just asked if they are hungry. Multiply that everywhere the Church is and just imagine the billions of poor who’s only hope comes from those who heard the words of the Risen one telling them that when they serve one of these least ones, they are serving Him... and commanding them to do just that.
Consider the field of education - the billions who’ve been educated because of Jesus’ followers. Before Christ, education was reserved to dukes, earls, duchesses, knights - yet because He was risen from the dead, His followers recognized the need for people to know the fullness of God, the fullness of creation and people would need education to fully appreciate that. When we just begin to imagine the artwork and music He has inspired... the missionary activity that has helped incorporate isolated people who were often dismissed as “savages” into the human family... there’s no aspect of this world, this universe that has not been changed because of one man — who could only have had that effect if he truly rose from the dead.
As we gather to celebrate this feast once again, we rejoice because we know that, because He lives, we now have the opportunity to share in a new and different life after this fleeting one on earth. And for 20 centuries before us, His followers have helped transform this present world because of that reality... In their hearts and minds they were moved to see beyond the miseries, and despairs and were transformed themselves by recognizing the great potential that exists for each one of us who trusts in the God who raised his Son from the dead. Promising us we too can experience this New Life if we are willing to put our faith in Him.
Yes, it’s true science may fly us to the moon, and sadly it is true that distortions of religion might fly someone into a building. But the even more amazing truth we celebrate here is how our Easter faith in Jesus Christ and in the power of His great victory over sin and death has the ability to fly us right into heaven.
—> Some of my inspiration for today’s Homily came from a tremendous book by Matthew Kelly called Rediscover Catholicism - A spiritual guide to living with passion and purpose. You can get a copy at dynamicCatholic.com
Posted by Fr. Jim Chern