Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Aware and Engaged - Easter Homily

The Pascal Candle is lit from the new and blessed fire at Holy Family Hicksville
Throughout this past week we have been witnesses of a drama.  From the entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, to the institution of the Eucharist and servant leadership at the Last Supper, to the betrayal, denial, torture and execution of the Jesus on the cross to unexpected resurrection encounter – the drama of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus has unfolded before us.  Observers though we are, are we truly aware of what has gone, beyond our observance?
Kelli O'Hara quick changes at the 2015 Tony Awards
screenshot via Tony Awards Backstage Youtube
My friend Fran is a professional costumer and dresser for Broadway actors.  One of her most important tasks is to assist the actor with quick costume changes.  Not too long ago she was working with the actress who played Anna in the musical the King and I. If you recall the show, you know that Anna is always dressed in very, very large hoop skirts, in watching the show, you are too busy watching the actors on stage to think about how Anna gets in an out of those skirts so quickly.  But during a performance at the Tony awards that year, the online audience got to see how it all occurs a camera with backstage capturing Fran, much to her chagrin, and her team changing the actress out of one skirt and top and into another in less than 40 seconds.  The attention of those watching on TV or in the theatre only saw what happened on stage and were unaware of what was happening behind the scenes; all they saw was the amazing result.
Throughout this week of the Lord’s Passion our attention has been on the actions of those around Jesus.  Many of the readings from sacred scripture we listened to focused on the human actions of Moses, Abraham, and the words of the prophets Isaiah, Baruch and Ezekiel.  Furthermore, in the first reading, which tells the story of creation, and the Gospel account of the resurrection we hear something so familiar that we may take for granted what has happened.  It is fitting then that the reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans begins questioning our awareness.  St. Paul is not simply asking us if we are aware of what we have studied, had preached to us or learned in a religion class.  He is not asking us if we know the stories of creation, the exodus and the resurrection.  He is asking if we are of what God has done behind the scenes throughout salvation history that leads to the Resurrection of Jesus.  More so he is asking if we are aware what has been done to us and for us without us paying attention to what is going on beyond our awareness.
Specifically, St. Paul asks, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Is this part of your awareness?  I know that this truth is not foremost on my mind.  Yet this truth is the foundation for our hope.  Because of our baptism we are united to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Because of our baptism we have profound hope that the worst thing that can happen to us, death is not the last word.  We do not just observe the drama of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by baptism we experience it.  St. Paul concludes that “raised from the dead, (Christ) dies no more; death no longer has power over him.” So too must we be aware that death has no power over us.
The era in which we live easily distracts us.  Our political atmosphere is horrible. The moral struggles presented to our children are overwhelming.  Financial realities, racial tensions, and an ever-present media are what grabs our attention and therefore, the cosmic and spiritual realities of the Resurrection recede to the background.  We function as if we have no awareness of the God who both created and redeemed the world. 
As we listened to St. Matthews gospel proclaimed we are treated to some dramatic imagery.
·       And behold, there was a great earthquake;
·       for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven,
·       rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
·       His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow.
·       The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men.
The Angel of the Lord  Announcing the Resurrection
Benjamin West  1805 Brooklyn Museum
These are events so dramatic in detail that they are meant to engage us and awaken us to not a happy ending of what was thought to be a tragedy but to empower our faith life.  Furthermore, with their encounter with the risen Jesus himself, the women experience a transformation and a commissioning.
In repeating and enhancing the message of the angel the risen Lord, Jesus commissions the women to be the first missionaries of the Resurrection.  He also gives them a specific task.  He tells them to inform his brothers that he will meet them in Galilee.  Why is this important.  The angel tells the women to give this message to Jesus’ disciples, Jesus calls them his brothers.  The change is important.  These disciples are the ones who betrayed, denied and abandoned him.  Hearing that he had been raised from the dead might rightly strike a fear of vengeance in their hearts.   He calls them brothers and in so doing extends reconciliation.  He does not abandon them but raises them from disciples to the dignity of brothers.  The women, therefore become the first agents of resurrection reconciliation.
Bishop of Rockville Centre, John Barres baptizes a woman
during the Easter Vigil at St. Agnes Cathedral.
Photo Credit: Ed Casey
At our Easter Vigil and most Catholic Churches we have the opportunity to witness a baptism.  The baptism of an adult in our midst is followed by the renewal of our own baptismal promises.  We all get wet from the waters of baptism today.  Shocked with the sprinkling of these waters we are made aware of the dramatic thing God has done in history and continues in us.  Like the newly baptized and the witness of the resurrection we are sent into the world to be missionaries of the resurrection and agents of reconciliation. 
This drama, this resurrection is not simply what we see but the often-unseen drama of God’s saving action.  Newly aware of what has been done we go fearful yet overjoyed and share in the building of God’s Kingdom.
Easter Sanctuary Holy Family Hicksville

1 comment:

carol radosti said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful Easter message. I especially appreciated reading that the women were the first agents of resurrection reconciliation.