Sermons

April 24: Alleluia, He is Risen! (Easter 2C)

“When I caught sight of him, I fell at his feet as though dead. He touched me with his right hand and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives.’” Revelation 1:17-19.

In reading passages both in John’s Gospel and the Book of Revelation, we are mindful of the personal contact of Jesus and the “beloved disciple.”

Here John is speaking directly to his Jewish brothers and sisters after the fall of the Temple and proposes that Jesus is the new Temple whose Resurrection and new life are sources for rejoicing.

Thomas is a familiar figure in this passage of John’s gospel which is read on this Second Sunday of Easter. It is a reminder that despite our doubts, Jesus is present amid the community, offering us his well-being, new life, and peace.

How do we best announce the Resurrection? Again we listen to Peter in the Acts of the Apostles for promising evidence, and we notice how he preaches Jesus Christ.

Yet, as witnesses of Jesus, how do we announce this good news of salvation? How do we herald this good news in our time of a worldwide health crisis, the fierce war in Ukraine, and especially those living on the fragile lines of poverty and homelessness?

How do we best announce the Resurrection? I watched online via live stream to several great preachers for some clues about Easter.

In Pleasanton, CA, Father Mark Wiesner began his sermon with alternating sections of his congregation cheering: “Alleluia, He is Risen! Alleluia, He is Risen!” Father John Unni acknowledged the marathon runners present at Mass in Boston and ready for the next day’s Boston Marathon. He reminded his people that each time we heal the sick, comfort those in sorrow, visit those in prison, we celebrate the grace of Easter.

In describing a visit to Rome and his seeing Michelangelo’s “Resurrection,” Philly’s Chris Walsh talked about the physical boldness of the new life in Christ. He looks like he has “business to do,” says Father Chris.

At the Easter Vigil in Santa Monica, Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson referenced the forgiving Christ and held up a statue he had purchased in the Holy Land. The sculpture depicted a risen Christ, shouldering the very man who was his executioner. Jesus’s mission was essentially that of mercy and forgiveness even to enemies.

In Jesus’s Resurrection, we, too, are changed. Father Matt Pennington, Nativity, San Luis Obispo, talked of the framing and re-framing of a painting and how the frame of the Resurrection gives purpose, depth, and clarity to the very landscape of our lives.

What have I seen this Easter, and how to best announce the Resurrection?

On the Easter Vigil that Saturday morning, I glanced at the front page of the Wall Street Journal and was directed to the photograph above the fold. The headline stated: “Good Friday is Commemorated at Damaged Notre Dame.” The caption read: “SHOW OF FAITH – Good Friday was marked by prayers at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on the third anniversary of a fire that nearly destroyed the historic place of worship. The cathedral has been closed for restoration since the blaze.”

The black and white WSJ photography depicted a processional cross held high by an acolyte dressed in protective white clothing. In the background, the latticework of scaffolds clamps together the delicate frame of the wounded cathedral. It’s as if the very body of Christ embraces and grasps us.

With only a handful of people inside the church, the archbishop of Paris and the Cathedral rector venerated a crown of thorns that survived the flames. In a structure brought down in sections of the 12th-century church and so beloved by Parisians and people worldwide. Of course, this ceremony was closed to the public, but thousands watched it on television. See: https://f24.my/6N2k

Later outside in the square Patrick Chauvet, the cathedral’s rector, said: “We believe that You are here with us, by our side, to return peace to us in the heart of the storm.” In their songs, prayers, and tears, these people best represented to me our aspirations about faith, hope, and rebirth at Easter.

A final word: Notre Dame de Paris has no street address, and the distances to/and from Paris are measured from this very point. The cathedral itself remains the center of French life, religious devotion, and culture.

Around 1830, Victor Hugo, the writer, completed his novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” For Hugo, the cathedral with its vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows, flying buttresses, and vast space housed the hurt, the bruised, the needy, the homeless, and those orphans like Quasimodo, the bell ringer.

In a way, we are all like Quasimodo – in need of mercy, refuge, serenity, and healing as we come even here into our Rosary Chapel — no matter how we present ourselves, these doors are open to you and all.

Notre Dame de Paris is on its way to repair and restoration from the devastating fire. Re-opening the Cathedral in four years may take more years of rebuilding and years more of re-imagining how to best announce the Resurrection in the stonework and the artistic efforts that speak of Christ. Our spiritual lives emerge and embrace a potential new life in this sacred space.

Recently I came across the writings of a college professor/theologian Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio, who asks: “Where is the risen Christ?”

In this Easter season, Sister Ilia reminds us to lean on the power of God and says:

“The risen Christ is everywhere and all around us: in you, your neighbor, the dogwood trees outside, the budding grapevine, the ants popping up through the cracks. We are Easter people, and we are called to celebrate the whole earth as the body of Christ.”

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.

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