Easter Sunday – Fr. Bill McNeeley
April 21, 2019 – 11:00am
There are moments in our lives when we say, “This changes everything.” For most of us, it’s when we have our first child. Being a parent is the hardest job there is. It is relentless, all-consuming and what’s more, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. I did this, and now I am going to have to make the best of it from here on out. Of course, I think children might have their own reaction if they were but a little more aware of their circumstances at birth. I think some of them might be justified if they were born opened their eyes and asked “These are my parents. This changes everything doesn’t even come close to the reaction of not just the apostles, but of all Jesus’ disciples.
Jesus being crucified, that changed everything, to be sure, but that he was raised from the dead, that changed not only their lives, but time and even reality was changed. Their lives and the course of human history would be forever changed; they had to make some sense of their lives in light of these events. We gather here this evening to offer thanksgiving to the God of our salvation for it was only Jesus’ suffering and passion that life is restored to each one of us. Tonight we celebrate God’s gift to the world, life eternal through faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
With the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, everything changes, including our hearts and our lives. Christ is Risen! The world is changed, our lives are changed, the created order is restored, heaven and Earth are one in Christ and our lives can never be the same. Death is on the run for it has no dominion over those who hold fast to Christ Jesus. Today we do not merely recall what happened two thousand years ago on a cross and in a humble rock-hewn tomb, but we participate in this continuing divine mystery. We rejoice that Jesus suffered, died and rose for us. We rejoice because his sacrifice was once, for all and we rejoice because Jesus continues to save his people. The Lord is risen, in our hearts and in our lives and we are called to share that joy with the whole world.
In today’s first reading Peter tells the other disciples what this changed world means, as far as he knows and understands it. It’s hard for us to understand how problematic it was for first-century Jews that Jesus, the Messiah, was crucified. “Cursed is he…” But God’s plan for salvation was much wider than the human mind can grasp. That’s why I believe we will all be surprised when we get to heaven and find out who else got in, but that’s okay, there will be other people saying the same thing about us. I will even go out. Who knows, there may even be a socialist or two mixed in. Jesus wants the entire world to be received into his saving embrace. As such Jesus commissioned Peter and the other apostles to go beyond their comfort zone and to recognize gentile believers as sisters and brothers. The problem is that even the church, or rather, those representing the church have fallen far short of their calling.
As a convert to the church, I can personally testify to the fact that the church and its members do not always welcome or even support pastorally those who are hurting. The church can, at times be disappointedly unresponsive to people’s circumstances. As a convert to the Catholic Church, I also learned that the quickest way to get people to think you are nuts is to walk into a new job and say “”Guess what? I’m going to be a married Catholic priest someday.” Their response is “Right! Of course, you are. We were just saying that about you weren’t we?” I also know that this is one of those times of the year when people who have fallen away or become disenchanted or even hurt by the church or its representatives manage to overcome whatever resistance they feel and come to the Easter celebrations. If you or your family are among those people, please call me, if there is anything I might do. I can’t fix everything, but I can listen. As many of you know, my father was one of the last of the old-time country doctors. When I was a teenager, I used to take him on house calls in Anderson County. He is my role model for what it means to be a priest. He was a physician of the body, I am a physician of the soul. I make house calls just like he did. Call me any time and if I may be of any assistance, I will. Mary will later be called “the apostle to the apostles, so she too must grow in faith.
Through it all, please keep in mind that for each one of us, the Resurrection of Jesus changes everything. Jesus’ followers—then and now—are tempted to add his resurrection to what else they know about him—but that’s not even the half of it. Jesus is not interested in being “squeezed into anyone’s life. He expects us to embrace our new life in him. We should not think that as baptized followers of Jesus, we have an inside track. Faith is not a wall to protect from the world, and it’s an invitation to minister to the pain of others because it is often our pain that can help ease the pain of others. Faith in Jesus Christ is an invitation to allow us to love as generously as Jesus did and does, and that is scary. Every faith journey has a next step. Are you ready to take yours? Take that step, you will never regret it.