Saturday, April 7, 2012

Homily Easter Sunday Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily Easter Sunday Year ABC:  Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Ps 118:1-2, 16-17,22-23; Col 3:1-4 or 1 Cor 5:6b-8; Matt 28:1-9; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:13-35 and John 20:1-9

Rejoice Tomb was not the final destination of Christ!

My dear friends in Christ, Psalm 118 sets the tone for today’s celebration. This poet invites you and me to ‘Give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love endures forever” (Ps 118:1). We are invited to shout Alleluia , to rejoice and be glad because Jesus has risen. This Day has been designed by the Lord (Ps 118:24) to wipe our tears; to calm our fears, doubts, sadness, and uncertainties and to place smiles and happiness on our cheeks. What a great joyful  Easter Day!

Easter Day! It is the highest point of our Christian faith.  Easter Day! It is a” Feast of Feasts” a “Solemnity of Solemnities.” It is a day that death has not only been annulled but defeated. It is a day that Jesus by his Resurrection guarantees us eternal life. He guarantees us that the Tomb is never the final destination of our loved ones.  The Resurrection of Christ reassures us that neither suffering nor the tomb will ever be our final destination. Faith in   the resurrection has a transforming effect on every believer from darkness to light, from despair to hope, and sadness to joy.

Of course that mixed events of Palm Sunday and of the Stations of the Cross of that Good Friday, humanly speaking, would have been thought of as a defeat, but divinely speaking the Resurrection is a victory which repairs this seeming defeat. The passion seems to have humiliated, but the Resurrection glorifies. It is a victorious combat divinely directed, since the tomb was never going to be the final destiny of Jesus.
St. Leo the Great in his Sermon (71, 2) once said, “That Jesus hastened to rise as soon as possible because He was in a hurry to console His mother and the disciples.” And the tomb was never going to be the final resting place of the one who is the Resurrection and the Life.

This is the key to interpreting Christ ministry, his whole life and the foundation of our faith. Without the victory of Christ over death our gathering here today, our preaching would be useless and our faith in vain (I Cor 15:14-17). I am sure none of us here would doubt this truth, this core value of our Christian faith- that Christ was raised from the death.

Even if there is anybody here who is not easily persuaded like the doubting Thomas in John 20:24-29 the good news is that, Thomas did not persist forever in his disbelief. Thomas will come back to believe, to say, “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28). If we dispose ourselves, faith can transform us and assist us even to handle some of the difficult doubts we may we face in life.

 Resurrection is a fact, not a fiction. Remember, there are several witnesses and testimonies to this truth beyond the scope of this liturgy.  St. Paul in 1 Corinthian 15:3-8 
reliably says,

 “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried …raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…appeared to Cephas, then the Twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive… Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all…he also appeared to me.”

Cephas (Peter himself) in today’s first reading, Acts of the Apostles (10:34, 37-43) presents his personal sermon on Christ’s ministry of healing though rewarded with death on a tree which turns out to be the tree of life.  By eating and drinking with Christ after his Resurrection, we like the earlier Apostles are reassured and commissioned to preach about Christ constant refreshment and nourishment of us, especially at the table of the Eucharist.

Besides, Peter and Paul, the Four Evangelists Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20-21 have also testified to the Resurrection of Christ and his appearances. Sometimes walks with them, and in other occasion he eats fish with the disciples.  It is also important to remember that the truth recorded in these Gospels was not written before the Resurrection. They were written after, by people who lived the “DARKNESS” of suffering and passion and had  the opportunity also to witness the ”LIGHT”, the “JOY” the “VICTORY”  and the transforming truth and power of the Resurrection.

 In all the gospel including the text of John 20:1-9 just read,  we share the  story of the witnesses of those women who came to empty tomb of the risen Jesus on the first day of the week. Mary Magdalene filled with loved for Christ went to the tomb very early when it was still dark. She found the stone rolled away. Note how she reacted. She reacted very quickly by running back to informed Peter and the other Disciple Christ, setting the tone for our personal reflection on how we react faithfully to the transforming power of the Resurrection of Christ.

She further said to Peter and others, “they have taken the Lord from the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.”  She initially thought that the body was stolen, but ironically setting the stage for faith. Notice also the reaction of Peter. “Peter and the other disciple also ran to the tomb. Lots of running!  Quite unlike Peter who was initially running away from the “ugly” trial scene. The transformed Peter is now running to the triumphal scene of the Resurrection. Though the Beloved Disciple is the first to arrive Peter is the first to embrace the burial cloth in the empty tomb.  With this cloth they came to believe that Christ had actually risen to die no more. We have something to learn from each of these disciples.

I think Mary Magdalene could be seen as disciple who not only genuinely loved and search for Jesus, but was attached to Jesus, remember he is the truth, the light, the way, the bread of life and the source of  eternal salvation. Like Mary we are called not only to believe but to bear witnesses to our faith where ever we find ourselves each day. Peter had once stumbled but he made it to sainthood, Saint Peter!

 That you are sick today does not mean that you cannot get well tomorrow. That you have been laid off from a particular job does not mean that all labor doors are closed against you. That you have once in your life doubted the Resurrection or any aspect of our faith or stumble like Peter does not mean you cannot turn things around.

 As we rejoice today may our faith be strengthened  by  the transforming power of Christ's Resurrection and be reassured that suffering, illness, violence, failures and even death is never our destination. Rather, good health, success, peace, reconciliation,  joy of Easter and eternal life in Christ Jesus.