“Tell us, Mary, ‘What did you see on the way?’ ‘I saw the tomb of the now living Christ. I saw the glory of Christ, now risen.'” Sequence
For the past forty days, we have been on a Lenten journey, a pilgrimage of refreshment and renewal that leads us to Jerusalem, and this morning’s celebration.
Most of us attending this Mass at 7:30 AM are here to get a head-start and leave town to visit our Moms and Dads, family and friends, and celebrate this holy day. Having checked my sermon files, I should make you aware that I have something like ten or twelve Easter sermons. If I were to read all of them, one after another, these repeat sermons would take a few hours. And all of us would be late for Easter dinner. So I’ll forgo that possibility and get to the heart of what I want to say on this Easter 2015.
We are on pilgrimage on a journey with Christ, for the long haul, since “He is the way to the Father.”
Here are two pilgrimage stories of mine:
This first story comes from my pilgrimage to Rome this past January. From year to year, I have taken my Saint Mary’s College January Term students to Rome as part of a course entitled “In the Footsteps of the Early Christians.” It’s also a way to address the need for “youth evangelization” on a Catholic college campus.
In one of our final class conversations, Matt expressed the need for a new full-time College Priest chaplain on campus. Currently, we are without a full-time priest chaplain, and there is concern among the students to find a young and dedicated priest to minister to the spiritual and sacramental needs of our undergraduates.
Matt told me: “We need a priest that will journey with us for the four years of our undergraduate life here.” This statement makes perfect sense to me, and the others in our Rome group. Young people, boys and girls, college women, and men need the support, guidance, and formation that comes from someone older, more mature, perhaps – and someone they can identify with, teach the ropes, and be a “role model” in the faith. All this is true.
And yet, as some of also know, eventually those training wheels must come off our bikes, and we have to navigate on our own, change gears to go uphill, look out for traffic, dodge obstacles, take a few spills, and go on your journey that is life.
Here’s my second pilgrimage story.
On Good Friday, customarily, I go down to Big Sur and attend the Good Friday Service at the Camaldolese Monastery in Lucia, some forty or so miles south from here. More on my mind was my need to prepare this Easter sermon. I took with me my file of past Easter homilies.
Like so many travelers on that beautiful day, I headed south, over the Bixby Bridge. I was looking for inspiration. Indeed, there is plenty of inspiration to the vista of mountains and seascape. To double my inspiration, in the car, I listened to a valuable CD of scriptural homilies — given to me by a friend of mine.
And like all hungry travelers, once in Big Sur, I stopped at my favorite luncheon place – for a “pick-me-up” of blueberry pancakes with genuine Maple syrup. A perfect choice on Good Friday.
As I was eating, a young father with his two young grade school sons, sat down at the counter, next to me. The Dad helped the boys into the bar stools – so well behaved, dressed in their soccer shirts, with their short legs simply dangling — not long enough to touch the ground. Together the three guys ordered from the menu – and as they were waiting for the food, I started the conversation.
We talked about the usual things – my teaching job, and his work, schools, sports, WCC basketball: Saint Mary’s College, and his college (our rival), the University of San Diego.
Most of all, we talked about the boys and their interests — one was in Fourth Grade; his younger brother in Third Grade. They were from San Diego. Mark told me they were camping for the first time in Big Sur at the Julia Pfeiffer State Park. After two days, they needed a break from the campground; and most of all, they told me they wanted someone else to do the cooking.
Already, I was wondering about Mom? So I said the best thing I could: “Well, this is a “male-bonding weekend!” The Dad replied: “We are bonded, believe me.”
His comment met my blank face. Mark added: “Yes, my wife died of cancer – two years ago, and I’m raising my sons.” For all my concerns about an Easter homily — here is where real life and my sermon connect.
“We are an Easter people, living in a Good Friday world,” I told Mark, as the boys looked on – having heard this adult talk before, and having seen this firsthand in their young lives.
“We’re not doing this alone,” Mark added, “our families, my wife’s family, and mine are looking out for us. From time to time, the boys and I — take to the road, go camping, and find each other.”
At some point in our old or young lives, the training wheels come off. We have to face that journey with Christ whose death and resurrection — gives light and direction to our lives. “Come to me all you who are burdened,” he tells us, “And I will refresh you.” When we are weighed down, Christ lifts us.
Knowing full-well that even on Easter — “not all things are shining, but some things are.” Not everyone in Jesus’s time — had the vision of faith to see Christ — but some did have faith, and we have so benefited from those who have brought us to faith here and now — on this Easter Sunday.
Some days, not all things are shining bright in our lives, but I saw something glittering on Good Friday in Big Sur — in this Dad and his young sons – so bright, so shining and with such grace.
Naturally, I told Mark and the boys — precisely what I have done in life – as a priest in these past forty or so years. As I left them at the cafe, we exchanged telephone numbers and email addresses. I told Mark, this dedicated Dad, he was my “saint for the day!”
And yes, they handed over to me, my Easter sermon. I was looking for inspiration that Good Friday, and I found it in them aplenty.
“I have come that you may have life and that you live it more abundantly… I am the Resurrection and the Life. I am the light of the World. I am the way to the Father.”
San Carlos Cathedral, Monterey, CA.