HOMILY FOR 2nd SUNDAY OF EASTER aka Divine Mercy Sunday

11 April 2021 St. Paul Apostle Church 10 AM Fr. James DiLuzio

SHOW ME!  CRIED THOMAS ON THAT FIRST EASTER EVENING!  It is a fair demand.  Rather than call him “Doubting Thomas,” let us call him “Entreating Thomas” – one who calls upon the Lord for blessed assurance.   

Indeed, We NEED SIGNS –evidence that Jesus continues to be present to us, strengthening His HOLY SPIRT in us, repeatedly sustaining us in the grace of our Baptisms and strengthening us through our participation in the Sacraments. Indeed, at every Mass we celebrate, we, like Thomas, call out to Jesus: “Show Yourself! Be present to us!  Affirm our belief!”

John concludes his Gospel with the assurance that what was “written in this book” will assist us in FAITH and having life to the full.”  The Church upholds Jesus is present in reading, sharing, preaching of Scripture. For although the book itself –text on pages—is to be treated with reverence, SIGNS of Jesus as THE WORD incarnate are not in the book but in the PEOPLE as we read it, in the PEOPLE who have shared and continue to share Scriptures with us, the people who first introduced us to prayer, and who pray for and with us still; the people who preach and discuss Scriptures with others with integrity, humility, and an openness to ongoing learning.

Note that Thomas saw Jesus in the company of other disciples/ Only Mary Magdalene and Peter were given private encounters with the Risen Jesus.   As for Thomas, so, too, for us:  Jesus came to him and to us in the presence of other disciples. This is the pattern of the Church and why Thomas’ story is such an essential part of EASTER and Resurrection Faith.

Let us now explore the gift of MEMORY –and how experiences of Resurrected Jesus require continuity of the past with the present.  After all, Thomas recognized the Resurrected Jesus through memory of all he had experienced with Him prior to and including His Passion.  Through the gift of hindsight, we too, recognize holy moments in the present–Jesus’ in another person, in a spirit-filled situation.  Journey with me, here, now, add your memories to mine, open to say, once again, to Jesus, as Thomas did: “My Lord and My God.”

To this day, Jesus comes alive for me in a recurring image of my Mom reading me children’s versions of bible stories. I can see her now at the edge of my bed, holding the book. I remember particularly the nights she read about Michael the Archangel and his battle with Satan.  And then my thoughts flood with the stories of Adam and Eve, the Blessed Mother, The Christmas Story and Jesus’ Passion.  I was so deeply intrigued by the stories, the pictures, and my mother’s faith and her demeanor. A warmth wafted over us as she shared the Christmas Story, and, at the age of 7, I cried hearing about the Crucifixion as the reality of the Passion entered more deeply into my consciousness. All signs of Jesus –all “incarnated word” experiences.

I remember another time: the night my father was in the hospital, in danger of losing his sight due to an accident at work.  My mother, siblings and I gathered for a family rosary, appealing not only to Mary, Mother of God, and for extra measure, Saint Jude, the faithful one also with the name of Judas among the Twelve.

What about your memories?  Your experiences of Jesus?  We can get so caught up in the demands of each day, do we recognize how important we take time, like Sunday Mass, and other occasions, to recollect, to reclaim Jesus in our lives?  Who taught you prayers? Who prays with you still?  Spouse!  Friends! Relatives!  Are you praying together?  This is the way to deepen our relationship with Jesus and others. Time to recognize the people in our lives as reflections of Jesus –the Universal Christ, who daily “comes in the Name of the Lord.” Whatever do we think we are affirming when we pray the Sanctus and every mass: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest!” Jesus came, he arrives now in Word and Eucharist, and continues to appear to us through one another even unto now.

YES, JESUS, SHOW US YOUR FACE!  And HE DOES!  In our renewal of Baptismal Promises which we will continue to do throughout Easter and in every association, we make with our encounters with Water! Whether quenching our thirst, showering, bathing, and, if you are fortunate enough, bathing an infant—a kind of perpetual encounter with Christmas!

How often have my women relatives fought over who would give a new infant his or her bath—mothers, grandmothers, sisters, sisters-in-law, daughters-in-law. I remember my grandmother running through the house with the bundle of my baby brother in her arms, my mother chasing after her!  “I’m giving him his bath!” My mother calling after her: “No!  It’s my turn!” Now see in every caregiver Jesus washing the hands and feet of the elderly, the sick and infirm. See him at our feet as we soak our weary paws at the end of the day –all experiences of GOD! 

Julian of Norwich was given the gift of seeing in this holistic way. In chapter 9 of the Long Text, she writes: We are all one in love. . .  When I look at myself as an individual, I see that I am nothing. It is only in unity with my fellow spiritual seekers that I am anything at all. It is this foundation of unity that will save humanity.

THIS IS HOW JESUS SAVES – with all of us together. ON THIS divine mercy Sunday, we benefit by praying “Lord Jesus, Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on Us!  Help us to see that we continue YOU, that YOUR BODY includes OUR BODIES, as we humbly acknowledge that as you express yourself through us, the kingdom expands now and on to eternity.” Like Thomas, we, too, must say, “Jesus, My Lord, and My God!”

EASTER 2021

A Homily by Father James DiLuzio C.S.P.

Easter Sunday 2021

For the first generations of Christians, the heart of the faith, the central purpose for their Conversion: Jesus’ Resurrection from the Dead.  The teachings, the miracles, the Passion Narratives were told and repeated because Jesus’s Resurrection confirmed the Primordial Longing of humanity at the very time we came into existence: the desire for Eternal Life.  The need to know that death’s finality was but an illusion came early in human history because people experienced a divine spark in the human condition that made us part of something greater.

Indeed, before any religions were formalized, before any rituals was ritualized, our Humanoid prototypes left evidence of memorials commending the dead to another world. Indeed, something erupted in the human condition that allowed our ancestors’ brains to expand, to seek a power, a spirit beyond ourselves, to ponder the stars and heaven as an essential goal.

Once Homo sapiens came on the scene, but long before the experiences that brought the Bible into a literary reality, Sumerians and Babylonians, Far Eastern cults of Zoroastrians and others attended to beliefs in the afterlife. Once Judaism became a tribal cult, the Hebrews eventually distinguished themselves and the true God by emphasizing this life and progeny as the central focus of life with God. They began with only vague ideas about life’s end–a kind of shade and shadowy existence in a place or state they called Shoal. “The living, only the living give you thanks, O Lord,” the psalmist cries. And that was and is an essential truth.  How we live from day to day is of great importance!

Yet through the experience of exile and the prophets, particular Ezekiel who insisted on a return to the land of Israel and Judah in images such as dry bones returning to life, Judaism evolved to reclaim a belief in resurrection of the dead. From the time of the Maccabees and the Writing of the Wisdom Literature, some two hundred years or more before Jesus’ birth, belief in the resurrection became a standard of the Pharisaic movement in which Jesus Himself was a part.

Ultimately, as hostility built toward Jesus, and premonitions of death consumed him, Jesus came to see that God would confirm Resurrection of the Dead and the Promise of Eternal Life through Him. But first, he would expose the sins of the World through the Wood of the Cross, compelling compassion and humility as the foundation for life in His Image as the antidote to death and dying, to sin, and violence, and hatred. Only such a dying would lead to a rising to New Life – to a kingdom of faith, hope, and love.  In His Image, as extensions of His Body in time and space, Jesus’ disciples would carry on His commission to transform the earth and everyone and everything in it.  HOW?  By trusting in the ETERNAL PATTERN, JESUS’ design of living, dying, and rising that all life entails.  The world may rage against such a paradigm, yet, ironically, it continually proports it as the circle of life:  Life, Death and Renewal.  But Judaism and Christianity, while acknowledging the Circle, also maintain a forward thrust moving Creation toward a New Heaven and a New Earth. A circular dance moving toward a HORIZON, beckoning renewal in faith, hope, and love, and trust in God.

Why even modern Science echoes this same truth. From the Big Bang, bursts of energy, combustion, then dying flames and embers contribute to something new, but not yet entirely new, for essential elements remain; some modified, others not, but keeping everything, and ultimately everyone, in relationship.  Past is present, and present becomes future all through Living and Dying and Rising. Consider the Dinosaurs—extinct, dead, YET a remnant remains in the composition of the birds of today – seemingly different, and totally new, yet not unconnected with their predecessors from the past.   We humans today are still composed of carbon and waters that formed life at the very beginning.  That is how we can say we are made from the very make-up of stars.  This scientific recognition brings a deeper understanding to our faith as we perpetuate the words of our everyday Trinitarian prayer:  “As It was in the Beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen!” 

This day, this HOLY DAY confirms for us again: Life, Death and Rebirth is God’s design. All in the Pattern of JESUS. Just as Jesus’ Resurrected Body was the same as his historic body–still in relationship with his ancestors, his mother, his disciples yet something new, beyond the confines of biology and physics.  An expanded reality akin to the expanding of the universe in circles and in straight, forward, and, at times, crooked lines. Old and New converging, becoming, dying, and rising.

 As Christians we are invited to trust in God’s Eternal Design. Sure, there are time we wish to rage against the night, yet, when we are disappointed or we fail, or become sick and feel worthless, Jesus gives us one another to support and sustain us the ought the dying times. His is a Living Body, active from age to age through every generation of believers. Together in Faith, we remind ourselves we are part of a greater story that includes suffering for a greater gain.  Trusting in God, our ongoing little deaths offer conversion to compassion for ourselves and others that will transform all suffering to redemptive suffering. Yes, there is a time to stay still, and a time to keep healthy, to stay alive, and there is a time to let go, to surrender to what we cannot control or fully understand.  This, too, is part of the Easter Story.  We are not afraid to die to resentments and hurts, to die to egos that must be continually affirmed. We may joyfully die to living for anyone’s approval but God’s, surrendering to the Gospel in which we do not need to see ourselves as better than anyone else (although we may be better at certain things) because we accept that all are equal to all, related to all; admitting our sins and failings as joyfully as we celebrate our accomplishments due to God’s generosity to us, the talents and interests God has endowed us individually, culturally, and religiously. Rising with Christ, forgiveness comes easy, the Spirit endows us with courage to change, to learn, to grow in wisdom.

What wisdom have we gained from this year of pandemic? How have we grown in compassion through Covid? Five-hundred Americans died this year, and yet millions rose to the occasion to offer care and social responsibility.  We are growing, too, in care for our environment, respect for our fellow creatures with whom we share this sacred earth.  Best of all, our solidarity with people of all ethnicities, languages, religions, and cultures is on the RISE, even as some slip back into an old world of prejudice and violence.

The TRUTH of Faith is this: Easter invites us to die and Rise with Jesus.  Through Him and with Him, our Communion becomes COSMIC, moving us on toward a future with God, brighter than any past.  Alleluia!