French writer Henri Barbusse (1874-1935) tells of a conversation overheard in a dugout full of wounded men during the First World War. One of them who knows he has only moments to live says to another man, “Listen, Dominic, you’ve led a bad life. Everywhere you are wanted by the police. But there are no convictions against me. My name is clear, so, here, take my wallet, take my papers, my identity, my good name, my life and quickly, hand me your papers that I may carry all your crimes away with me in death.”
Jesus makes a similar offer this morning. In the reading from Acts of the Apostles, Peter describes all that happened regarding Jesus, how he was unfairly judged, sentenced to a cruel death, then – beyond all expectation – came back. He commissioned Peter and the other apostles to transmit the astonishing offer:
“Everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43)
Peter himself understood the joy of forgiveness. In a sense he had committed the worst sin of all – he denied that he even knew Jesus. Not once but three times. Not in front of some cruel tyrant, but before a serving girl. Peter wept bitterly. His shame could not be greater.
After Jesus returned to Peter, he communicated forgiveness – and the authority to forgive others. (Jn 20:23) When Jesus forgives, it's not just a change of legal status, but a new identity. St. Paul says, "For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Col 3:3)
This might seem too good to be true – like the French soldier who received a new identity from his dying comrade. I ask you to consider the possibility that Jesus not only died for you – but that he now lives. That in some way he is more intimate to you than your own waking consciousness.
No one can take this in all at once. In the Catholic Church Easter is not so much a day, but a season lasting seven weeks. We need time to examine such a staggering claim. This morning please consider one thing – the empty tomb. Even tho people differ on its meaning, very few contest the bare fact. If you go to Jerusalem today, you can still see the place. But you do not need to go that far. In our Gospel this morning, we heard how Mary of Magdala, then John and Peter ran to the sepulcher of Christ. Join them in peering inside, gradually recognizing the burial cloths, but nowhere seeing the body of Jesus. That’s enough to contemplate on this first day of Easter. More will come. There is so much yet to discover about Jesus - and the new identity he wishes to communicate to each of us.
May the Lord bless you – and your families – on this Easter morning.
From Archives (Easter homilies):
Easter Vigil Homily 1998: "At the entrance was something like a small swimming pool with three steps leading down one side and three steps leading up the other. At the Easter vigil they were led into the pool. The priest asked..."
The Meaning of the Resurrection: "Forgiveness is the one new thing that has entered the world. Without forgiveness human history is bleak. Frederick Nietzsche the philosopher who stated 'God is dead,' thought the driving force of history is resentment..."
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
One of our neighboring pastors, Rev. Gary Jensen of Shorewood Lutheran has written a nice pamphlet on the Evidence for Jesus' Historical Resurrection
Hitler's Pope: Comic Book Approach to Church History
St. Mary of the Valley Album
my bulletin column
Reasons Young People Leave Their Faith - Presentation for Monroe Christian Pastor. (For pdf format click here)
Background for presentation on "Reasons Young People Leave Their Faith": High School Course – World Civilization - Section on origins of Christianity. (For pdf format click here)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish
WYD Fund Raiser at Hacienda Restaurant