First of all, on behalf of our parochial vicar, Fr. Peterson, our deacons Joe Krempl & Ted Weise, the members of our Holy Family staff and on my own behalf—I am Fr. Phil Bloom, your pastor—I wish you all a Blessed Easter.
You are here this morning because you know that Easter is the heart of our Christian faith. In our first reading, St. Peter expresses it this way: "They killed him (Jesus) 'hanging him on a tree' only to have God raise him up." Now this is an astounding claim. That Jesus not only died on the cross, but that he rose from the dead. Buddhism, Islam, no other great religion makes such a claim.
I have staked my life on that claim because I believe it to be true. I am convinced that Jesus' death and resurrection is the central event in human history. It is not only faith which leads me to that conclusion but a certain reasoning based on evidence: the empty tomb which not even Jewish leaders or Romans denied, the burial garments left behind in the tomb, and above all, the testimony of ordinary men like Peter who saw the Risen Lord.
But most important is that Jesus' Resurrection unlocks the meaning of human history. St Peter concludes his Resurrection sermon by saying, "everyone who believes in him has forgiveness of sins through his name." Because of Jesus' Resurrection, we now have forgiveness.
Bishop Fulton Sheen used this example. Suppose you were tried and convicted of killing someone. You approach the gallows knowing that in a few minutes you will be hung. They slip the noose around your neck. But then the crowd which had been facing you suddenly turns around. The man you were supposed to have killed is standing right there. You shout out "he is not dead. He is alive—and I am free!"
Something like that has happened to you and me with Jesus' Resurrection. Like Peter we have betrayed Jesus. Our own sins caused his death. He accepted them on his own shoulders when he died. But now he is alive and we know we are not condemned, but forgiven.
Forgiveness is the one new thing that has entered the 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 those who say, "I love everyone" are actually seething with bitterness inside.
But Jesus has broken the chains of bitterness. He has brought something new into our world, something which is even more powerful than resentment. We can see the power of forgiveness in the history of our country. I remember at a certain point in my life being fascinated by our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. I read every book I could find about him. What stands out is not just that he proclaimed God's judgment on this nation for the sin of slavery, but much more important was his fight for union. As the Civil War drew to a close, he sought forgiveness, reconciliation between North and South. And he gave his own life for that reconciliation. We can safely say that were it not for Abraham Lincoln, America would not be one nation today.
Forgiveness, reconciliation—though it sometimes appears weak—is really more powerful than resentment and bitterness. That is true of human history and of our own lives as well. Sometimes people say to me, "Father, I wish I could forgive such and such person, let go of this anger I feel inside." Well, I don't have a magic formula, but what I offer is this, "look at the cross. Ask Jesus to help you say this prayer, 'forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Easter is a time to make a new beginning. Perhaps there are some here who feel distant from the parish because some parishioner or even some priest—maybe myself—has hurt you. I ask your forgiveness this morning and ask you to come back to this parish family. We need you. As a parish we are entering into a new stage. This year we are celebrating our 75th anniversary. It is a milestone, but also a new beginning because we have a lot of challenges in front of us. Our parish council has been discerning the need not only to maintain the buildings we have, but to build a new social hall. We are going to need the ideas, the energy, the participation of everyone.
We have a tremendous mission here in White Center. Our young people are hungering for the truth and the life that only Jesus and his Church can give. We want to offer that to them.
This past Holy Week we have seen young people come our Church. On Palm Sunday to receive the palm branch, symbol of Jesus' victory. On Holy Thursday at the beautiful multi-lingual liturgy of the Last Supper. On Good Friday, the day Jesus offered his life on the cross. And last nite at the Easter Vigil 36 were received entry into the Catholic Church by the Pascal Sacraments: baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.
During this Holy Week and Easter God has also given us a little reminder in the heavens—the beautiful comet. I was fortunate enough to be at my mom's on Camano Island last Sunday evening and to see both the lunar eclipse and the comet. What struck me was that the last time Hale-Bopp comet appeared was around 4000 years ago. That was about when God began his plan of salvation by calling Abraham, our father in faith--2000 years before Jesus was born. Now we have almost arrived at the year 2000 after his birth. Our Holy Father has told us that year 2000 will be significant and we need to use these three years for preparation. We are now in the year of Jesus and our focus is understanding his redemption, which is precisely the forgiveness of sins He gives us thru his death and resurrection. Our Scripture verse is: Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
Easter is the time to draw near to the Risen Jesus. The Easter season is actually 50 days long, from today until Pentecost Sunday on May 18. I invite you to come to Mass every one of the seven Sundays of Easter time. Come to Jesus, He alone is the source forgiveness, healing, redemption. He alone is the same, yesterday, today and forever
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
One of our neighboring pastors, Rev. Gary Jensen of Shorewood Lutheran has written a nice pamphlet on the Evidence for Jesus' Historical Resurrection
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)
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WYD Fund Raiser at Hacienda Restaurant