Message: Rest in God; his will is our peace
Happy Easter! Easter comes late this year but it is not too late for us to enter life in Christ. That will be my theme for the Easter season - the seven weeks between now and Pentecost Sunday - Life in Christ. On this Easter Sunday St. Paul tells us, "Your life is hidden with Christ in God."
What does that phrase mean - Life in Christ? We had some hints during Holy Week. On Palm Sunday, we heard Jesus' prayer, "Not as I will, but your will be done!" He accepted the Father's will even though it meant horrendous suffering. On Good Friday we saw that Jesus - God's very Son - learned obedience from what he suffered. Obedience does not mean unthinking servility. No, the word comes from the Latin "ob - audire" which means to listen carefully, to pay full attention. So life in Christ involves obedience, that is, listening to God, embracing his will.
An Italian poet helped me understand this. You have probably heard of him - Dante Alighieri. He wrote a beautiful poem called the Divine Comedy. It tells about his journey into the depths of hell, then an arduous climb up the seven story mountain of purgatory. Finally Dante gets to the spheres of heaven. The lowest sphere of course belongs to the moon. In that sphere are those who broke their vows, but repented before they died. There Dante recognizes a woman named Piccarda. Dante asks Piccarda if the souls on this lowest sphere aren't a little unhappy, maybe envy those who have a higher place in heaven. But Piccarda gently smiles and she seems "to glow with the first fire of love." She explains to Dante that the essence of heaven is to dwell in God's holy will. Then she speaks the most famous single verse in the Divine Comedy, "In his will is our peace."
His will is our peace. This does not mean God absorbs or destroys our individual wills. What it means is that a person discovers true freedom: to align one's own will with God's will. No one does this by his own power or his own cleverness. It can only happen by union with Christ. Life in Christ.
Heaven, eternal life, means to embrace the Father's will - in Jesus. That life has to begin now, here on earth, or it will never begin. Perhaps you have heard the quote, "Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned." This quote might sound extreme, but you can find it in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (#2744) If you pray, you are saved; if not, you are lost. Our relationship with God - life in Christ - begins now.
During Lent many of you began a practice of daily prayer - ten minutes of silence each day to listen to God. In these seven weeks of Easter I will explain more about what this life in Christ involves - and how you can use the Bible as a springboard for prayer. You will not regret the time you spend in prayer. Perhaps you heard about the two men who were chopping trees. One man chopped for eight hours straight. The other chopped for fifty minutes, then rested for ten and started again. The second man chopped down more trees. How did he do it? He was not stronger than the first man. When they asked him his secret, he said, "During my breaks, I sharpened the ax." Take time to pray. Everything will go better. But above all you will desire to embrace the will of the Father - in Jesus. In his will is our peace.
Some of you are just beginning Life in Christ - like those baptized at the Easter Vigil. It's wonderful to talk to them about the difference prayer makes in their lives. On the other hand, many of you have immersed yourself in Christ since your infancy. But you know when it comes to Life in Christ all of us are beginners.
Perhaps some here have drifted from Christ or even become alienated. I invite you to try God - not some childish cartoon but the living all-powerful God: the one we will profess in our renewal of baptism vows, the God who thirsts for your faith. Try God. What have you to lose? You've tried everything else. Try God.
Next Sunday I will offer a way to use the Bible to listen to God: How you can not only wade into the Scriptures, but take the plunge. Don't miss it. For today, rest in God. His will is our peace Jesus has done all the heavy lifting. Rest in God. His will is our peace. Amen
Homilies for Triduum 2017:
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..."
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