Fr. Rick’s Homily: Easter Sunday 3/31/24

Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; I Cor 5:6b-8; Jn 20:1-9

March 31, 2024

In just three days we have gone from the darkest day in human history to the brightest day in human history!  All the perceived limitations for peace and joy have been obliterated because God has given us access to His power.  Jesus has persevered in His suffering and has offered the total self-gift of His life to the Father.  He has broken the spell of Satan on humanity.  We now have the power to rise above our many human-imposed, self-created, distortions and confusions about life on earth.

We still have many difficult decisions to make about our attitudes and behavior, but we do so with a new sense of hope and resilience.  The readings this morning can give us some particular guidance on how to live in a resurrected state and usher in the new world that Jesus has promised.

The very familiar story of the empty tomb in John’s Gospel can help us understand how the Church attempts to lead us in our daily journey of faith and hope. The gospel states that Peter and John both ran to the empty tomb. The younger, faster John arrived first, but waited for the Rock, Peter, the lead apostle, to arrive.  There are different ways of interpreting this episode, but this is what jumps out at me.  The short delay in entering the tomb may have been of enormous consequence for the rest of history.

John noticed the burial cloths, but it specifically states that Peter made the observation that the head wrapping was rolled up intentionally and placed apart from the other burial cloths.   Conceding to the wisdom of the older apostle allowed them to anticipate the many conversations that might happen in the near future.  This deliberate placing of burial garments would seem to indicate that the absent body was not the result of grave robbers who likely would not have taken such care.  Rather, it seems to point to Jesus leaving a sign that an enlightened person would pick up on.  NOT absolute proof, but a believable clue to one inspired by God’s grace.  Sceptics would later argue that there was not a resurrection, but only a grave robbery.  This would allow the sceptics to stay in a more power-based, familiar way of asserting control and influence in society.  If Jesus had indeed ushered in a whole new era, everyone would have to grow up.  Not an easy thing to do.

The Church still lives in this tension of those with an abundance of relational zeal, as was apparent in the many accounts of Jesus and the beloved disciple.  And the more seasoned, and perhaps institutionalized, perspective of one given to a longer view.  The Church needs both: first-hand relational zeal, and wisdom of the ages.  The two must be kept in a dynamic tension and not in opposition to each other.  This is essential for the successful mission Jesus has given to the Church.

Another important point I would like to emphasize in today’s Scriptures is in the second reading today from First Corinthians.  Paul exhorts the people to ‘Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough’.  Old yeast has lost its ability to make the bread rise.  It’s worn out.  The decision must be made, ‘do we want fresh bread or not?’  Do we want any bread at all?  Or have we gotten used to the broken fragments of stale, moldy bread because it’s, well, just what we are used to.  It just seems better to not raise our expectations too much because we will just be disappointed all over again.

A couple areas where I see Hope in the coming year where traditional wisdom, youthful zeal and new yeast may all be coming together is in the fuller understanding of what it means to be genuinely PRO-LIFE.  We are more ready than ever to let go of the massively under interpreted sense of prolife meaning primarily, anti-abortion.  Sixty-five million abortions later and countless other relational catastrophes are pointing to the need for new yeast.

The first hopeful sign is our local reading of Men and Women are from Eden:  A Study Guide for St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.  About 1/3 of our regularly active community is signed up to enter into this deeper understanding of what it really means to be human.  What is the true nature of the intimacy God has offered us and called us to?  This is the resurrected joy that God has intended for us from the very beginning.  It requires a deeper interior journey which is not common in our noisy, competitive, predatory, increasingly superficial culture.  If we are really sick of stale moldy bread, then we will be part of the change.

This well be a blending of traditional wisdom and some new youthful zeal by people who are tired of moldy, baby boomer wisdom.  Thanks be to God!

The second sign I see is the expansion of the dialogue about ecological concerns and how to manage these beautiful public lands that are such an attraction to the whole world.

Later next month the annual Amazing Earthfest here in Kanab will feature a panel discussion between Northern Utah Mormons and Southern Utah Mormons.  A deeper exploration of their own teachings might help inform the dominant Utah sensibilities about the management of public lands.  There will also be featured a presentation about the wilderness and desert motif that runs through the Judean-Christian scriptures and how it can lead us to a deeper appreciation of this vast, relatively untrammeled piece of God’s Creation.  Being a life-long Catholic and a committed tree hugger for at leas the last 45 years, I can see that the introduction of serious religious thought into the more secularized ecological forums could be a considerable leap forward.

But again, we’ll need some new yeast to look at things in a more transcended way.  Scripture and history have taught us that when challenged, it seems most people prefer the darkness over the light.  Moldy, stale bread over fresh croissants.

Easter calls us into this fuller mystical realm of reality where we will risk our stale comfort levels for a brighter, fresher future for the next generations.  The Mass calls us into this transcended state of relationship which will be our inheritance ultimately and completely at the heavenly wedding banquet.  But we persevere with new hope during this holy season and can experience some of that transcended joy even while here on earth.

Let us now publicly proclaim anew our baptismal promises before God and each other.   Our intention to participate more fully in God’s plan for us.