Easter Vigil / Easter Sunday 2021 – Fr. Rick Sherman
April 3-4, 2021
This evening (Last evening) our extended liturgy of the Word included a quick summary of the History of Salvation; the history of God’s saving action in order to share with us the fullness of life. God made us for paradise, but humans are HELL-bent on coming up with something even better than what God had in mind. As we can hear from our Scriptures, the human way is pretty much a disaster. In our story we hear of our repeated unwillingness to follow God’s plan and God’s commandments. We hear that when we make up our own rules we get confused and destructive and eventually create great divisions amongst ourselves. We are then much more vulnerable to the forces of evil and other idols outside of God’s chosen people.
We can see also that God gives us every chance possible to be redeemed; but, there is a point where God sees that we are so lost and so confused and so recalcitrant that we have to be almost destroyed in order to be saved. We see this most vividly in the story of Noah and the great flood and also in the story of the Babylonian Exile where at around 587 BC God allowed the Babylonians to conquer Israel, destroy Jerusalem and their temple. At this point in history most of the Israelites had been firmly captivated by the allure of other gods and had thus all but lost their sense of being God’s chosen people. If they were allowed to continue in this state for another generation, they would have completely lost their identity. During a period of about 70 years in the Babylonian desert most of what we now call the Old Testament got actually written down for future generations … so they would not forget their story. A small remnant DID survive the desert and went back to Jerusalem to rebuild. Their efforts were sufficient to limp the people forward until Jesus came into the world about 500 years later. It’s also interesting to note that all survivors did not commit to the rebuilding of the city and temple. When they saw the magnitude of the task, many just opted to stay among the pagans and their gods. It just seemed easier.
It doesn’t take an enormous imagination to see the parallels within our own time, our own nation and even our own Church. Christian theologians and commentators are more and more describing our time as the post-Christian era. What has taken the place of Christianity? Really. Think about that. Who are some of the loudest most influential voices? Black Lives Matter? The LGBTQ??s movement? We ought to hire their marketing department. They’ve changed our whole understanding of biology and anthropology in just a couple decades. Who else is more influential than Christianity? The Proud Boys? The automatic weapons enthusiasts? The secessionists? We have people in this part of the country who want to secede from the union in order to reclaim the land that God has given them. God did not give it to the Indians or the Mexicans or even the people of the United States. He gave it to the secessionists and they have the guns to prove it!!
We are now as divided as anytime in recent memory, certainly in my own memory. Strong divisions, even genuine hatred between Republicans and Democrats have paralyzed any hope of genuine democracy. When the people do not choose Jesus Christ and when they do not send their well-formed children forward to govern and lead, we get any and all forms of extremism. We reap what we sow.
All the groups I have just mentioned, and many others, are not completely without merit. They started out with some very legitimate concerns. They are, however, just much more excited about their movements than are most Christians. Hence the post-Christian era. BUT all is not lost. There is a remnant in our time as well! What looked like a cold empty tomb 2000 years ago was really a spring board to NEW LIFE. A small band of demoralized and disillusioned disciples were soon to become the most motivated, peaceful and effective movement in the history of the world. Sent to teach all nations they would indeed change the whole course of human history and sacrifice their very lives to do so. Jesus Himself promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. It hasn’t and it won’t.
I have been around for a while and have been an American and a Catholic all my life. I am a patriot and a Disciple of Christ (at least on my good days). I don’t recall ever being more disillusioned about the state of America, but also more hopeful about the Catholic Church. If Jesus really is THE WAY THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE, and if He really did resurrect from the dead and then send us the Holy Spirit (of course we believe all three), then this could well be the most exciting generation in human history. There is very a sizeable and growing remnant in our time as well. Some are identified on websites featured in today’s bulletin.
If we have really died with Jesus, then WE too will RISE to the needs of our age and do so with the zeal and effectiveness of our ancestors two thousand years ago. Remember that Easter Season lasts 7 weeks and culminates with Pentecost. God is lifting us up at this very moment!
Let us now continue on with our Easter Mystery and pass over from captivity to freedom…