March 27: It All Began in a Garden. (Easter C)

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!” Ps. 118

lush garden

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.

Many of us are here in the early morning at 8:00 AM Mass, to get a head start and perhaps leave town to visit our Moms and Dads, family and friends, and celebrate this holy day.

Now I should make you aware that having checked my sermon files, I have something like ten or twelve Easter sermons, and 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 2016.

We are on a pilgrimage, and our destination is Christ, since “He is the way to the Father.”

Here are two themes about Easter, simple points suggested by today’s feast day and with help from writers who have inspired me.

In light of the international news this past week, Bay Area writer, Anne Lamont reminds us: “We are an Easter people, living in a Good Friday world.”

To me, the dreadful events at the Brussels airport, and at the downtown metro stop of that city confirm the trauma of a continuing world crisis.

Our calendars commemorate days like 9/11 New York; 7/7 London; 4/14 Boston; 4/18 Paris; 12/2 San Bernardino; and now 3/22 Brussels, Belgium.  So many dates, so many commemorations, and so many lives lost and wounded. And we pray for the people of the Middle East, and Syria and those refugees on foreign soil.

Help us, dear Lord of life and resurrection, to see through these agonies, as Jesus did, and help bring us to new life and resurrection – and help us discover those the creative ways that foster peace and reconciliation. Let our Easter promise focus on the light of Christ — who brings salvation, healing, and new life to all.

As Pope Francis has called for a “Year of Mercy,” how ironic, there are evil forces that continue to foster hate and violence. Indeed, we are an Easter people living in a most fragile Good Friday world.

All well and good, some may say, but where do we find the personal creative energy to resolve these insurmountable conflicts? Here’s my second point for today.

In his short book of Lenten meditations, Bishop Ken Untener concludes with an entry about Easter Sunday that recounts how the early disciples and friends of Jesus had to cope with his death and find ultimate meaning for their lives. Bishop Ken makes the point that “it all began in a garden.”

Recall, the garden of Eden, the garden of Gethsemane, and the garden of Christ’s burial. In reading John’s gospel, Jesus leaves the upper room to begin his passion and death:

“When Jesus had said this, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley to where there was a garden, into which he and his disciples entered.” (Jn 18:1)

Later after his death on the cross, Jesus’s body is taken to a grave, and John reports:

“Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they placed Jesus there…” (Jn 19:41-42)

Bishop Ken adds, “Not only is this the garden of burial, but it is also the garden of new life. This is the garden Mary Magdalene came to early Sunday morning. After going to tell the disciples that the tomb was empty, she returned to this garden and stayed there alone. It was here that the risen Lord appeared to her. She thought he was the gardener.”

In about an hour or so, I will travel north and up CA Highway 101 to the East Bay, where for each year, long-time friends of mine Daphne and her husband Dick host their family and friends in the outdoor space – a lush garden that they prepare in the Spring, made splendid with this year’s rains, and in which they take great pride.

It’s in this place that creative energy tells us something about the miracle of Easter with its sounds of laughter, the scent of flowers — lavender, hydrangea, forget me not, California poppy, Easter lily; and in the fresh grass, children hunt for Easter eggs.

Here this extended family, like so many on this day, share their joys, love, as we catch a glimpse of the next generation in the lives of grandchildren; listen to stories about the past age whose lives I’ve been privileged to pray for and bring to rest. So it’s the garden at this Easter time that I find so comforting and affirming.

Bishop Kenneth tells us that everything began in a garden, and tells us to consider the very last few words of the Bible, in the last chapter of the Book of Revelation:

“Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God. On either side of the rivers grew the tree of life that produces fruit 12 times a year. The night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus is with us all.”

Our Lady of Refuge, Castroville, CA.






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