The Greatest Gift

(Homily for Easter Sunday)

Message: Open yourself to the greatest gift - mercy.

Happy Easter! (Pause) My name is Father Phillip Bloom. Today is my 7th Easter as your pastor and spiritual father. May we have many more together. So let me say it again: Happy Easter!

Our Psalm says, "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever." It adds, "Let the house of Israel say, 'His mercy endures forever.'"

You may know Pope Francis declared 2016 the Year of Mercy. More than anything else our world needs mercy. The terrorists attacks this week evidence a diabolical lack of mercy. Earlier this month we saw it dramatically as those gunmen attacked an elderly care home in Yemen, killing sixteen, including four religious sisters - and kidnapping their chaplain, Fr. Tom.

Our world needs mercy. Deep down we long for that gift. We desire mercy more than a thirsty man longs for cool water.

Yet there is a problem. We desire mercy but we don't want to do the one thing necessary to receive mercy: admit we've done something wrong. A presidential candidate at one time said he has "never asked God for forgiveness." This candidate is known for saying what other people think. We have to grant he does say something we tend to think: (whining voice) I haven't done anything wrong.

People near me may not see it that way. They see faults I am reluctant to recognize. Now, I am not asking you to tell me my faults. And I am not concerned what faults you might have.

The point is not to have a guilt trip, but we all need humility. Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. I'll talk more about that next Sunday, but today I want to emphasize that we need humility if we are going to receive God's greatest gift - mercy.

Jesus came to bring that gift. He did it in the supreme way this week: with his suffering of love - his apparent defeat (the cross) became victory. After announcing that victory, St. Peter says, "Everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins in his name."

How does this work? How does the resurrection bring mercy and forgiveness? One of the best illustrations comes from a university professor named Dr. Phillip Cary:

The story begins with a tragedy: a girl pushes her brother down a stairs. To her horror, the fall causes him to break his neck, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. She did not intend to paralyze him, but that was the result of her malicious action. All day and all night she is thinking about what she has done.

The next day she must face her father. As she approaches her dad's room, she is afraid. What she fears is not so much that her dad will punish her. In some ways she would welcome any punishment. No, what she fears is that her dad will say that she is no longer his child, that he will banish her from the family. But when she enters the room, she sees a glorious sight. Her brother is sitting on his father's lap - completely restored. He says to her, "sister." And she hears her father say, "my daughter."

Now, she will have to face some punishment for what she did. But she bears it gladly because of the great joy she has. In a similar way the Resurrection of Jesus restores us. We hear Jesus say, "It is I. I live." Then, in spite of our sin, the Father says, "you are my son."

The resurrection of Jesus means that our sins are forgiven. That's what Peter tells us. From the grave Jesus has risen whole and glorious. Now: "Everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins though his name."

I can't say everything today. We have seven weeks - fifty days - between now and Pentecost to explore God's mercy. His mercy is without end. Open yourself to the greatest gift - mercy. And I invite you to experience mercy in a particular way: By renewing your baptism. In a few moments I will ask you the questions I asked those baptized last night: Do you renounce Satan? And all his works? And all his empty show? After a profession of faith, I will go among you with holy water. As the drops of water reach you, recall your thirst and the one who can quench it.

Whatever you faith - even if you feel no faith - I have a blessing for you. I am like the Rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof. I have a blessing for everyone. Jesus has a blessing for you.

"Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say, "His mercy endures forever." Amen.

************

Spanish Version

Homilies for Triduum 2016:

Holy Thursday (bilingual, mainly English)
Good Friday
Easter Sunday

From Archives (Easter homilies):

2017: Life in Christ Week 1: His Will is Our Peace
2016: The Greatest Gift
2015: Disciple Makers Week 1: Totally Fixable
2014: Journey to Hope Week 1
2013: Peter's Joy
2012: To Get Rid of My Sins
2011: Seek What Is Above
2010: Forgiven
2009: Eternal Life Begins Now
2008: His Will Is Our Peace
2007: I Have Been Baptized
2006: Peering into the Tomb
2005: Transformation
2004: Ready for Combat
2003: Something To Live For
2002: The Weakest Link
2001: A New Identity
2000: Born Again!
1999: Why I Believe

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..."

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Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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(March 2016)

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