Bottom line: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead: By prayer and sacraments, he wants us to have his life - eternal life begins now.
First of all, Happy and Blessed Easter to you and to your families. For those visiting today, my name is Fr. Phillip Bloom. I have been pastor here at Holy Family for twelve years - and it is a joy to wish Easter Blessings on all of you.
As pastor, God has given me a huge responsibility: for the salvation of each person in this parish. I read a humorous story about a pastor who took that responsibility very seriously.* To seek the lost sheep, he would even go to the taverns. (smile)
When the priest entered a local tavern, three men were sitting at the bar. He asked the first, "Do you want to go to heaven?" The man said, yes, he did. The priest said, "Then go stand against the wall."
He asked the second if he wanted to go to heaven. The man said, yes, and the priest told him to stand against the wall. He asked the third, "And you, do you want to go to heaven?"
The man said, "no." The priest said, "What? When you die, you don't want to go to heaven?" The man said, "Well, yes, when I die. But I thought you were getting a group to go right now!" (second smile)
Well, brothers and sisters, as we celebrate Easter 2009, I want you to know that I am getting a group to go to heaven - right now. And I want you to be part of that group. (third smile) Eternal life begins now.
Today we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus - from the grave. Jesus tells us that the restoration of our physical bodies is not simply a distant dream. No, Jesus said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life." Then he adds, "No one comes to the Father except through me."
By a personal relationship with Jesus through prayer and sacraments, we already participate in the Resurrection. St. Paul speaks about that relationship when he tells us, "If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above."
St. Paul says that we have already been raised with Christ. Unfortunately, even on Easter day, many people can feel like they are still in the tomb. They feel discouraged. Especially this past year, with so many economic problems, it sometimes seems like our society is unraveling. When you add family problems and personal failings, it is easy to feel discouraged.
If you feel burdened today, I ask you to think about these words of Pope John Paul the Great: "We are not the sum of our failures. We are the sum of the Father's love for us - and our real capacity is to become the image of his Son Jesus." What a difference it would make if we defined ourselves by God's love - not by our failures!
No matter where you are right now, God has a plan for you. Someone who embodied that sense of purpose was the great German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was one of hundreds of ministers and priests that the Nazis imprisoned. While in that horrible prison, Bonhoeffer wrote, "As I see it, I am here for some purpose and I only hope I may fulfill it. In light of the great purpose, all our privations and disappointments are trivial." He was only 39 years old - and he could have imagined many more years of ministry, but he knew that God had a deeper purpose for him. Facing a horrible death at the hands of the Nazis, he embraced the cross. As he had consistently taught, only through the cross do we come to the resurrection.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. By prayer and the sacraments, he wants us to have his life now. Do not let your failings define who you are. God has a plan, a purpose for you. It may involve some privations and disappointments, but whatever the cost, it will be worth it. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Where he is, he wants you to be. Eternal life begins now. "I am the Resurrection and the Life." No one comes to the Father except through Jesus.
*From Amazing Grace for Survivors (50 Stories of Faith, Hope & Perseverance) by Jeff Cavins, Matthew Pinto, Patti Armstrong & Luke Armstrong
Intercessions for Easter Sunday (from Priests for Life)
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
Bulletin (Meaning of Faith in the Resurrection - Quotes from Pope Benedict & from Protestant Theologians; Plans for Visit of Fr. Frank Pavone)
2009 Pilgrimage to St. James Cathedral
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)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish
WYD Fund Raiser at Hacienda Restaurant