Text of Bishop William Murphy's Holy Thursday Easter Sunday Homily 2012
Every year the Church cries out on Easter Sunday: This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad! And that is true. But today when you awoke and saw the sun, when you greeted the little ones, when you looked around you at the beauty of God’s creation, when you saw the smiles I now see and hear the greetings that ring in our ears: it just seems so much more real! This IS THE DAY. This is a great day and, even if we got off to a bad start, or are carrying some extra heavy burden, something is different today, something seems new.
All that I feel echoes that spirit at Easter and so I often wonder why – when we are so joyful – the Easter Gospel doesn’t spell that out in the same way? We all know the story: Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, finds it empty, runs back to tell Peter and John. They come running to the tomb, look in, find nothing and return home. Hardly the most dramatic or exciting of the events we will be re-telling from the Easter Gospels.
But there is a depth to what I just stated so starkly that we can miss if we don’t try to grasp what it must have been like that dark and lugubrious Sunday morning 2000 years ago. John gives us some hints and they tell us a lot. First Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb in the dark. No sun, not even dawn! Just the dark which matches her preoccupation, her concerns about anointing a dead body. It also signals the state of the world, shrouded in darkness since that Friday afternoon at Golgotha. She goes to a tomb expecting to find a dead body and all she finds are leftovers, a shroud, a cloth. Confused she runs back to Peter and John. She thinks the dead body has been stolen. Now begins a relay match. They run to where she found emptiness, nothing, no body, no explanation. The two disciples find the same thing, burial cloths and the cloth that covered Jesus’ head. End of story. We are told only two things: John saw and believed. And they did not yet understand the Scripture that he must rise from the dead.
What’s going on? First everything that has to do with death has been set aside. Death has no place here anymore. Death has no more power! Second the action that has taken place is not human. It comes from God. God has acted as he has promised. Jesus’ body is not stolen. Jesus has been raised from the dead. Now will they see him in the upper room, with his glorified body bearing the marks of his wounds. Now will the two men on the road to Emmaus meet Him in the breaking of the bread. Now will the apostles go to Galilee and encounter him there: Jesus. Yes Jesus! Jesus alive! Jesus not resuscitated like Lazarus. Jesus raised from the dead to live now as the Lord and Savior of all humankind! Jesus who offers to you and me a share in his glory. Now the sun shines. Now darkness is put to flight. Now we see that the day that began in gloom has become the day that is greater than all other days: It is Easter, Resurrection! There is radical newness, an evolutionary leap for us all. What God wanted has been accomplished! His Son has triumphed and we are all sharers in that victory over sin and death. For we are now brothers and sisters of the Christ, the Glorified One, the Deathless One, The Savior of the world!
From that first Easter, this truth has spread and spread across the earth and around the globe. Those who saw him in this new life told the good news. And down through the centuries we who have not seen him still have believed and have thus received a share in his life. Look at the example of Cornelius in the Acts today. Hear what Peter says: We are the witnesses…but now I know that God gives His Spirit to whomever he wills and everyone who believes in Him will have forgiveness of sins through his name. From Peter and the apostles to Cornelius and to Corinth, down through the centuries, the Church has never ceased to proclaim that Jesus is risen. The Church has never ceased to offer life in Christ to all who believe. The Church has never ceased to continue that worship of the Son of God through the Eucharist, that life through the gift of the Holy Spirit, that witness through the lives, the words and the actions of Jesus’ disciples, namely you and me!
Yes, YOU AND ME! We may be here today because it is Easter or for any other reason whatsoever. But being here means that we believe in Jesus Christ, that we have a reason to believe, that we have accepted to be part of the most awesome and extraordinary community anyone can ever belong to: the community of communion which is the Church: the Church that has faithfully proclaimed the resurrection year in and year out: the Church that is born from the side of the crucified Christ, the Church that receives from the Risen Christ the gift of the Spirit, the Church that worships God through the Eucharist every Sunday, the Church whose members live according to Christ’s law of love, the Church that shows the world that the way to the Father is by Jesus, God’s Son who died for us and rose from the dead, He who is the way, the truth and the life. All this is here in the Church and here alone for us and all humankind!
That means that you and I who share in the life of Christ have to share as well in his mission. Each of us has a responsibility for the good of the world through sharing in the vocation of the Church to make Christ real in our world. I can’t do it alone. Nor can my brother priests; nor deacons and consecrated men and women nor any other single group. We all have to do it together. The Church needs a bishop and you got me. (Sorry about that). But the Church is all of us, not just me, not just sister or father: all of us.
If today you and I share the joy of the resurrection and share the body and blood of Christ in this Eucharist, then we cannot leave him here at the door. We must take him with us and we must be instruments to make His life make the difference in the worlds we inhabit. I need you to stand with me and my brother bishops in defense of religious freedom and freedom of conscience in our beloved nation and throughout the world. We need you to defend the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. We need you to help care for the poor and the marginalized. We need you to use your time and talent in whatever ways possible to build up communities of hope and communities of inclusion, not exclusion. Think what Catholic Charities and parish outreach does right here for so many who are needy in our communities. Think of the young children and teenagers who are being educated in our Catholic schools. We need your help to tell Albany to let individuals and corporations have tax credits for supporting scholarships for kids who go to religious based schools. The world needs you to say no to violence in Syria and the Middle and no to conflicts in Nigeria and Mali. We must all be participants in this community that prays for peace and acts for justice, We must continue to be beacons of faith and hope and love to a world that knows too much hatred and division.
You and I have the same vocation: we are disciples of Jesus Christ. Each of us has his or her own responsibility but we have to fulfill that responsibility as disiciples of the Risen Christ. Paul tells us to get rid of the old yeast of malice and wickedness and celebrate today’s great feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. The world needs that from us. We need to do it together out of love of Him who saved us. For the sun is shining this day. Life is renewed this day. The world is changed by Jesus. Christ is Risen! He is truly risen! Let us rejoice and be glad!