Bottom line: Ask Jesus to come into your life - to get rid of your sins - so he can give you a new identity, a fresh start, a new beginning.
A Blessed Easter to you - and your families. For those visiting, my name is Fr. Phillip Bloom and this is my third Easter at St. Mary of the Valley. I love being your pastor, your spiritual father, and I hope that we will have many Easters together.
I would like to begin this Easter homily with something from G.K. Chesterton. Perhaps you have seen pictures of him. He was big. Chesterton used to joke that he was the politest man in all of England - because when he stood up in a bus, he could give seats to three ladies!
Well, Chesterton was big not only in girth, but in intellect. Many considered him the most brilliant and most popular journalist of his day. It caused quite a stir when, after many decades of searching, he entered the Catholic Church. Friends asked him why he became a Catholic. Chesterton replied, "To get rid of my sins!"
That is what we see in our Easter readings. Peter recounts Jesus' death and resurrection and then concludes: "Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." When Jesus first appeared to the Apostles, he breathed the gift of the Holy Spirit and said, "Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them."
The forgiveness of sins enables a person to make a new beginning. 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 wants to give you and me a new identity, a new beginning, a fresh start - by the forgiveness of sins. Now, you don't need to have huge sins to seek forgiveness and make a fresh start. After he became Catholic, Chesterton said that one of the beautiful things about Confession was that a person could tell very ordinary sins: laziness, careless words, uncontrolled anger. Those sins seem pedestrian, but they can bring a person down just as much as adultery, drunkenness, abortion, porn. The truth is - whether our sins are great or seeming small - all of us need a new beginning.
The forgiveness of sins brings something new into our world. Without forgiveness human history is very bleak. Frederick Nietzsche, the philosopher who stated "God is dead," thought the driving force of history is resentment. In one sense he is correct. Anger, resentment, bitterness, envy — those things go on and on. We know in our own lives how difficult it is to get rid of resentment. And sometimes even the person who say, "I love everyone" in reality, is seething with bitterness inside.
There is only one way to overcome bitterness: the cross, the forgiveness of sins. If we open ourselves to the cross, something new enters the world, something new enters our own lives. I am not saying it is easy. On the contrary, nothing is more difficult that receiving forgiveness - and all that it implies for our relations with others. It is not easy, but that is the reason we have before our eyes the cross - and the Divine Mercy image.
Brothers and sisters, we are in a crucial, defining moment for our society and our church. The question is: Will we stand with Jesus or pull away from him? Are we going to allow Jesus into our hearts or are we going to drift with the current? A dead fish goes with the flow. A strong, live fish swims against the current.
I want to ask something of you this Sunday: Give Jesus fifty days. For us as Christians, Easter is not a single day, but season that lasts until Pentecost Sunday - this year, May 27. We have 50 days to explore the Resurrection. We cannot take in everything at once. It is enough this morning to accompany the apostles to the tomb of Jesus. Join them in looking inside and feel the surprise that the tomb is empty. The empty tomb is good starting point because it is a fact all can agree on. Not only the early Christians, but also the Jewish authorities and the Roman - all agreed that the tomb of Jesus was empty. Only the burial shroud and a few strips of cloth remained behind.
The question is: What does it mean? What are we to make of the empty tomb? You do not need an answer now. Come back next Sunday so we can explore this mystery together. Meanwhile, ask Jesus to come into your life - to get rid of your sins - so he can give you a new identity, a fresh start, a new beginning. Amen.
From Archives (Easter homilies):
Easter Vigil Homily: "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
Divine Mercy Novena (print ready in English & Spanish)
Parish Picture Album
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru