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!