I’d like to begin this Easter homily with something from G.K. Chesterton. He wrote magnificent stories and essays, but was also famous for his eccentricity. He weighed about four hundred pounds and once found that he could not squeeze through a certain door. A friend said to him, “try entering sideways.” Chesterton looked at him and said, “I have no sideways.”
Chesterton wore a huge overcoat which occasionally he used to conceal props – including a long pistol. If someone complained, “my life just doesn’t seem worthwhile. I am tired of it all. I wish I could just die,” Chesterton would pull out his pistol, point it at the man and say:
“OK. Let me help you.”
After the person got over the shock, he would realize, “Well, maybe I do have something to live for.”
People come to church on Easter Sunday seeking something to live for. Don’t worry, I am not going to pull out a gun. Rather, I want to offer you what Peter did in his Easter sermon. We heard it this morning in our first reading from Acts. Peter gives a summary of Jesus’ teaching, his miracles, but most important his death and mysterious reappearance. Then he concludes with these words,
If you want something to live for, the first step is recognizing you are free. I am not referring to the fact we live in free nation, but to something more fundamental: that you can make a choice.
People at times tend to imagine that their genes or heredity predetermine their behavior. They say: “My Irish temper got the better of me.” Or, “It’s my Latin blood.” Maybe. But was there not a moment when you could have avoided saying what you said or doing what you did? It’s not all your parents’ fault, or your wife’s or your boss’s.
Sure, you have special circumstances, but deep in your being you know you can make a choice - and that it is very basic: between good and bad, right and wrong. One of the reasons young people flocked to the Lord of the Rings movies is because they vividly depict the battle between good and evil.
Of course, none of us makes perfect choices. For sure we often chose beautiful things – love, compassion, care – but as Peter tells us, we have also chosen wrong. According to the Bible, our bad choices have brought a terrible consequence - they have put Jesus on the cross.
Nevertheless – this is the astounding part – he is now alive and he offers you and me forgiveness. Without cost. Gratis. No strings attached.
An evangelical minister said that when he asks practicing Catholics how they hope to get to heaven, only 30 percent even mention Christ.* They say things like, “I try to live a good and decent life,” or “I try to be kind to everyone.” Those responses contain too much I and not enough Christ. By all means, be kind to others and try to live a decent life, but recognize that good deeds, in themselves, cannot save you. Only Christ crucified and risen can open heaven for you.
That’s what we announce, particularly on Easter: Jesus died and he now lives. Not as a disembodied spirit, but body and soul, humanity and divinity. And that you do have something – or rather Someone – to live for. He wants you to receive him in faith – and in the sacraments.
I know this is a lot to take in at once. Do not worry if this morning you have only a glimmer of faith. In the Catholic Church, Easter is not single day, but a season lasting seven weeks. Come back next Sunday. You do have something - and Someone - to live for.
*Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical by Fr. John R. Waiss and James G. McCarthy, p. 361.
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
Psychiatrists Lament the Commercialization of Antidepressants
L'Osservatore Romano Appeals for Solidarity With Iraqi Children
Outraged Hispanics to Gather in Albuquerque in Support of Miguel Estrada
New Encyclical on the Eucharist:
Unfortunately, alongside these lights, there are also shadows. In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned. In various parts of the Church abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament. At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet. Furthermore, the necessity of the ministerial priesthood, grounded in apostolic succession, is at times obscured and the sacramental nature of the Eucharist is reduced to its mere effectiveness as a form of proclamation. This has led here and there to ecumenical initiatives which, albeit well-intentioned, indulge in Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith. How can we not express profound grief at all this? The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation.
It is my hope that the present Encyclical Letter will effectively help to banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice, so that the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery.
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)
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