Jesus is Risen!

Homily for Easter Sunday

You know, over the last couple of weeks, I have had multiple conversations with many of my friends and many of our parishioners about this Lenten season. I don’t know what it was about this year, but for so many of us, it just seemed to be a really long and difficult Lent. Think about it. How many of us struggled with our Lenten penances and practices – maybe in a way that we never have struggled before?

At the beginning of this season, many of us set out to do some wonderful things with the Lord. And yet, if you’re anything like me, a lot of those things became too difficult to accomplish. Maybe we gave up or compromised in some way on what the Lord was asking us to do for Him. It might have been a season of unrelenting challenges. In some ways, we may even be feeling defeated. At the end of a season like that, we often find ourselves asking: where is our hope?

Nearly 2000 years ago, on the evening of that original Good Friday, the disciples of Jesus felt the same. Their master, their teacher, their friend had been put to death. The one that they thought was the Savior and Messiah was gone. Fearing for their lives, these same individuals remained hidden in a locked room. They felt abandoned, rejected, lost, confused, hopeless.

But then Easter Sunday dawns – and with it, the irreversible victory of the Resurrection. The tomb is empty. The stone, overturned. The shadow of the cross is dispelled by the bright morning light of a new creation. The apparent failure that was the Crucifixion has become the greatest victory in the history of all humanity.

The Resurrection is the mystery that is at the very heart of our Christian faith. It is a relatively simple concept to talk about – someone rises from the dead. Yet, at the same time, it is extraordinary and powerful. It was so mind-blowing that the apostles and disciples – the people who were told by Jesus that He would rise from the dead – it’s so mind-blowing for them that even they couldn’t believe it actually happened until they saw the empty tomb…in fact, many of them couldn’t really believe it until they saw the Risen Christ.

In the Gospel that was just proclaimed, we see how the Resurrection didn’t really sink in for the disciples until they witnessed the results themselves. We’re told that it was only when the disciple entered the empty tomb and saw the burial cloths folded up, that he came to a place of being able to believe.

Every single one of the disciples had walked with Jesus for a couple of years at least. He taught them everything about the faith, told them about what He was sent to accomplish. The disciples had all the facts, and yet, they couldn’t come to terms with what happened on Easter Sunday. They couldn’t believe until they saw it for themselves.

The disciples knew that Jesus could raise the dead, they had already seen it happen. Lazarus was raised after three days in the tomb. The widow’s son was raised from the dead. The daughter of Jairus. And yet, the disciples found it difficult to have hope that Jesus would be raised from the dead. Even Mary of Madgala couldn’t believe it to be true – she thought someone had stolen the body of Jesus.

Think back to after the Transfiguration: Jesus told Peter not to tell anyone about the events that transpired on the mountain until He was raised from the dead and then Jesus kept repeating that He would be raised on the third day. But they still couldn’t connect the dots!

The disciples were clueless. Can we really blame them though? Even today there are a lot of disciples of Christ who are clueless. How many of us fall into that category?

Even more so than the disciples, we have all the facts right in front of us. It’s easier for us to find a Bible verse and learn more about the faith than any other generation in the history of the world. And yet, many of us have no idea about who Jesus truly is or what He can accomplish in our lives or in the lives of others. We often lack faith and cannot come to terms with what Jesus does. Many times, that lack of faith is due to our own experiences of pain and suffering, to our own encounter with uncertainty. Like the disciples in the upper room in the days following the Crucifixion, we can feel abandoned, rejected, lost, confused, hopeless. But it’s precisely in those moments that the Lord meets us. It’s there that we encounter the Lord in a deeper and more intimate way. We just have to invite Him in. Because He knows what it’s like to suffer; He entered into it Himself. But the story didn’t end there! Easter happened!

This day provides an enormous injection of hope for the human spirit…because Jesus rose from the dead. He is the only one of whom we can say: “He rose again on the third day, in fulfillment of the scriptures.” Only in Christ’s resurrection does goodness prevail over evil. Only in the Resurrection is life triumphant over death. Only in the Resurrection does abandonment and rejection give way to the embrace of love. O Only in the Resurrection do we find the way that leads to the Father. Only in the Resurrection is it possible for us to gain the greatest gift of redemption and salvation.

In Jesus Himself and in His Resurrection, a new hope dawns for the entire human race. It is a hope that keeps us united to Him through faith and grace. It is a hope that promises that we will rise with Him, rise from our tombs, and live with Him for all eternity in the Kingdom of our Father in Heaven. No one else offers such a hope. It is only in Jesus.

So today, let’s not just enjoy Easter, let’s allow it to truly change our lives. Even in the midst of the negative stuff the world throws our way, even in the midst of the doubts, the confusion, the abandonment, the rejection, the hopelessness that we sometimes face…let’s not allow that to steer us off course. Instead, we should use those times as opportunities for prayer and deeper relationship with the Father.

This Easter let’s remember who we are as Christians and who Jesus is for us. May we ask the Lord for an increase in the gift of faith in the Resurrection because it is the basis of our hope in eternal life, a hope which enables us to bear patiently the trials of life. All of us can endure those trials because the Cross isn’t the end of the story. We didn’t end with Good Friday; Easter happened. And it will happen again in each of us because Jesus is Risen!

Painting: The Resurrection of Christ by Maerten de Vos. In a collection at the National Gallery of Ireland. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church, Orlando.

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