Bottom line: The Gospels are history but what they tell cannot be contained in a simple historical narrative. The history they describe continues because Jesus is not dead. He is alive and he goes before us. The young man clothed in a white robe is a symbol of you - and me.
Happy Easter! Felices Pascuas!
I'd like to begin in a perhaps surprising way: with a story about a father and son in the Auschwitz concentration camp. The food as you know was atrocious: thin soup, often with maggots floating, a piece of dried bread and on some occasions a bit of margarine. The boy noticed that his dad, instead of eating his ration of margarine, guarded it away. When December arrived the dad made a Hanukkah light with the margarine. The son, amazed, asked why he did not use the margarine to alleviate their extreme hunger. His father responded: "We have learned that we can live three days without water. We can live three weeks without food. But we cannot live three minutes without hope." The boy's name was Hugo Gryn. He survived Auschwitz and went on to become a widely respected British rabbi. Rabbi Hugo died in 1996.
This story ties with the prayer we said on Palm Sunday and have used through Holy Week: "Increase the faith of those who place their hope in you..." Hope depends on faith. People are suffering today because they have lost faith and therefore lost hope. They see nothing beyond this immediate world. In spite of having greater opportunities, greater freedom and greater abundance than any other generation, people feel a sense of hopelessness. Our children especially are plagued by loneliness, depression, even suicidal thoughts.
I admit I feel anger at those who rob hope from young people. It would be one thing if they did it by reasonable arguments, but they tend to do it by mockery. For example, they tell our children that the Bible is a bunch of fairy tales. There's a lot you can say in response, but the first question you have to ask is, what is a fairy tale? Typically, a fairy tale starts "once upon a time in a land far away..." Fairy tales have no interest in fitting in with human history. Modern fairy tales are Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. They are wonderful stories but are not rooted in any historical time or place.
The Bible is very different- especially the Gospels. The crucifixion of Jesus happens at a specific place and time. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, in Jerusalem, at the time of the Jewish Passover. You cannot write off these events as fairy tales. You have to look at the evidence. For my money the evidence is pretty good. For more, I encourage you to read The Case for Jesus by Dr. Brant Pitre.
Now, when I say the Gospel accounts are historical, that does not mean they contain no elements of symbolism. For example, on Palm Sunday we hear about a young man wearing a linen cloth. The soldiers try to seize him, but he runs away leaving the cloth behind. Well today we hear, "On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed." Who is this young man? From the beginning, Christian writers have speculated about him. Bishop Bob Barron says that the white robe represents the garment a Christian receives when he is baptized. Faced with persecution, some Christians run away. Perhaps you and I have faltered, not lived up to our baptism. Well, we are like that young man. But the resurrection brings hope. Today we see the young man restored and now bearing witness.
He said to them, "Do not be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him."
The young man testifies to Jesus and becomes a disciple maker:
"But go and tell his disciples and Peter,
'He is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him, as he told you.'"
The Gospels are history but what they tell cannot be contained in a simple historical narrative. The history they describe continues because Jesus is not dead. He is alive and he goes before us. The young man clothed in a white robe is a symbol of you - and of me. We'll see more during the fifty days of Easter. And we continue to pray: "Increase the faith of those who place their hope in you..." Amen.
From Archives (Easter Sunday Homilies):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Ordinary Time leading up to Lent*
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru