Bottom line: Like St. Peter - and his successor, Pope Francis - we will know the strength that come from joy.
Happy Easter! In some parts of the world, people give this greeting. "Christ is risen!" and the response is, "Yes, he is truly risen!" Being of Croatian descent, I learned a little of that language. They say, "Krist uskrsnu!" And the response, "Uistinu uskrsnu!" You do not need to learn Croatian, but I hope you will join me in saying, "Yes, he is truly risen!"
My prayer is that whatever is happening in your life, whatever is going on in your family - that today you will feel the joy of Christ's resurrection. As we said in the Psalm, "This is the day that Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad."
We see that joy in Pope Francis. He has captivated people throughout the word because he radiates simplicity and inner peace. Not just Catholics, but other Christians, Jewish people, Muslims and even those with no belief in God sense the strength that come from joy.
The Catholic writer, Patricia Livingston, relates a family story that illustrates the need for joy. After her son returned from the Gulf War, he would explode unexpectedly "filling the house with furious darkness." One day he surprised Patricia by saying, "I gotta stop this, Mom. It's just the devil trying to steal my joy."*
God wants us to have joy. He gave us a world that is good and beautiful. And when we made a mess of his creation - war, disease, death - he gave us a new creation - in Christ. We have every reason to rejoice.
The devil wants to rob our joy. He does it in a deceptive way. He offers things like alcohol, drugs, gambling and pornography. Those things bring momentary joy, but then lead to misery, bitterness and isolation.
God on the other hand offers joy that endures. The first step to joy is forgiveness. Today Peter speaks about forgiveness. As leader of that small group of Christians, he gave the first Easter homily. It's still the best one ever given. Peter tells how Christ died for our sins. And Peter should know because he committed the worst act of cowardice: he denied that he even knew Jesus. Think about - he shared the greatest intimacy and confidence with Jesus, but when the crunch comes, he swears, "I do not know the man." But Peter did not sink into despair, he didn't shift the blame. No, he accepted forgiveness. He concludes with these words, "everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name."
The first step to joy is to receive forgiveness: through faith and baptism - or the renewal of baptism as we will do right after this homily. Forgiveness is the first step to joy. There is a second step: become a disciple.
I remember when I was a young priest, Archbishop Hunthausen talked to a group of us.** He made a simple point, but one I will never forget: that disciple and discipline are practically the same word. Now, I am not great on discipline. Anyone who has seen the mess in my office knows that. But I know that without self-denial - putting first things first - I cannot be a disciple.
Discipline is a hard word for us, especially for us Baby Boomers. We have been given so much and we take things for granted, get upset when things don't go our way. It's not the same with people who have come from other countries. A man told me about growing up under an oppressive regime and how his family escaped when he was a teenager. The only thing they brought was determination and gratitude for every opportunity to study and work. That man excelled and is now making a beautiful contribution to our country.
He told me how his family went to Mass every Sunday even though it meant government reprisals and mockery. The service lasted two hours (they were Orthodox) and they had to stand. He was amazed to come here and see how people take such a casual attitude to Sunday worship. Well, if I feel like it, I will go.
That wasn't the way with Peter and the first Christians. They attended weekly temple service - and then on the following day, the "Lord's Day," Sunday, they met for the "breaking of the bread." What we do at Mass.
The Mass is the most important thing we do as disciples. I know that your bed or sofa is more comfortable than our chairs. I cannot offer you something more entertaining than television, the mall or your computer. But I can promise you this: If you receive forgiveness and become a disciple, the Mass will become more and more meaningful to you. And you will experience joy, joy that endures.
The cross will still be there. Jesus has told us we have to take up our cross daily and follow him, be his disciple. Like St. Peter - and his successor, Pope Francis - we will know the strength that come from joy. "Krist uskrsnu! Uistinu uskrsnu!" Christ is risen! Yes, he is truly risen! Amen.
*From Turning Our Hearts to God (Lent 2013 Daily reflections, activities and prayers) by Patricia Livingston
**Note for brother homilists: If you do not have a similar illustration, you can say, "Once a bishop spoke to a group of young priests..." The same applies to illustration about the immigrant. And, of course, if you are not Croatian you will have to adapt the opening.
From Archives (Easter Sunday 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
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (based on daily Mass readings)
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. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (Current St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru