|The Peace Pulpit: Homilies by Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton|
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|Easter Sunday The Resurrection of the Lord||
March 27, 2005
But then I thought for today when we celebrate the fact that Jesus transformed that hateful, violent situation into a situation of love when he reached out and forgave and loved. And then on this day was raised from the dead, transformed death into new life. I thought, well, perhaps there’s a way in which you don’t think of that as something that happened 2000 years ago, but that Jesus does rise again in our world in different times, in different places, in different circumstances. That Jesus is alive and with us. You know in the first lesson today Peter spoke about how the disciples saw Jesus. He says, “God let Jesus be seen. Not by all the people, but by the witnesses that were chosen before hand by God, by us who ate and drink with him after his resurrection from death.” And so those first disciples obviously had a very special kind of experience of the risen Christ. They saw Jesus not just in a resuscitated body but in a transformed way, a whole different way of being. They experienced it deeply. Now that is not going to be our experience and yet sometimes in the quiet of our prayer if we really center ourselves, go deeply within our own spirit, we experience Jesus alive within us so that he rises from the dead within our own hearts.
But then also if we go beyond that, I think, where there are events, situations, things that happen that really are like a rising to new life and they can be a sign for us that Jesus is alive, that Jesus continues to rise from the dead. And I have a couple of examples that I thought help us to see how resurrection continues to happen and that it can give us hope and joy. Many times over the past few years I’ve spoken about the war in Iraq, not just here but many, many places in our country, and one of the things that I’ve always tried to get across to people is the reality of the terrible suffering of the people of Iraq. For them it’s been almost 25 years of constant violence, warfare, suffering and death and the country is shattered. And one of the individual people that I would also speak about is a young boy, 12 years old, his name is Ali Abbas, and during the second Persian Gulf war just a couple of years ago his home was struck directly by a missile. His mother, who was pregnant, was killed. His father was killed. Six of his siblings were also killed. Ali was the only one who survived, but he was horribly burned almost beyond recognition. And both of his arms were torn off above the elbow. After it happened he was totally despondent, wanted only to die, could not foresee his life as an orphan, as armless, and ever recovering from his terrible burns. But just this week I got a press release about Ali written by a reporter, Alexandra Williams who says:
“War orphan Ali Abbas looked on in helpless bewilderment as his new arms were fitted for the first time- then he slowly broke into a captivating smile.
After glancing at his devoted uncle Mohammed for reassurance, he gazed down at his limbs and said to me: “I’m all here now. My arms feel good. I didn’t think they would look this good. Now I want to hug my sisters and the rest of my family. I also want to brush my teeth my myself and wash my face.”
...the brave 12 year old embraced Mohammed for the first time since losing his arms in a missile strike on his home outside Baghdad six months ago.
Then, showing off all his new skills, he brushed my hair, joking: “I don’t think I’d make a very good hairdresser.” Smiling happily, Mohammed, 37, handed his nephew a present of a watch, a simple gift but for Ali a sign that life was starting anew. “It’s very nice to be able to wear it,” he said....”
And he smiled. To me that’s a sign of resurrection. Someone who was desperately suffering, very near to death, has risen in a sense to new life. It’s a sign of how God can work through us to make the resurrection happen now.
The other example that I thought of is perhaps closer to home. I’m sure all of us heard about the school closings that happened so suddenly a week and a half ago. Our own school was closed. And this was done without any warning. It was done in a very cruel way, really. The teachers, the principals, the staff, none had a clue it was going to happen. All of a sudden they’re told their school is gone, like a death, a crucifixion. But this past Thursday morning, on holy Thursday, students from Holy Redeemer High School, one of the schools that was closed , were down at the Cathedral when the Chrism Mass was being celebrated and one of their teachers wrote about this experience. She says:
“There is little doubt that those of us committed to our city schools have finally reached Calvary. What the closure of our schools portends for the city of Detroit, for the entire region, is hard to fathom. The fallout from this decision is inestimable. Yet, we are people of faith. And vision. And creativity. And resolve.
The good news is we have students and we have teachers and we have a commitment to Christ’s command to go forth and teach. We have the sacraments and we have the saints. We have more than we know...
And marching on Thursday:
“Our students learned a valuable lesson as they stood outside the doors of the church in a way that they could never have learned in theology class, they recognized that they are the Church. They learned that when the Spirit bids them to speak, they have voices that are strong and eloquent and authentic. During this very holy week they have learned that one can pray on the street and hold school on the sidewalk. They are a testament to the value of Catholic education. They are a harbinger of hope. During a time of crucifixion, their presence and protest is a sign of resurrection.”
Through them the crucified Jesus is alive among us. And I think that’s really true that out of that crucifixion new life is coming. These students show us that they have not given up. They are determined that they are going to continue to struggle to be the kind of Christian disciples of Jesus they’re called to be. Their experience of being church, their experience of being able to speak with God’s spirit speaking through them is a sign of resurrection, the crucified Jesus comes to new life in them.
These are only two signs of how God continues to raise Jesus from the dead. Each of us in our own lives, again, can enter deeply into ourselves and experience the risen Jesus but also we can look around us and we can find things that happen that show that God is alive, that God is bringing life where there was death. That God is raising Jesus from the dead again and again and again. The more we experience this, the more we will be filled with the joy of Easter. But even more important as we experience Jesus being raised from the dead again and again we can fulfill our role as disciples of Jesus because it’s our task to proclaim the good news, to say that the reign of God is at hand, that Jesus is alive and lives among us. And when enough of us proclaim that message, feel that message, live that message, we can bring hope and joy to a world that needs this message desperately.
My prayer this morning as we celebrate this feast of Easter is that every one of us will come to know more deeply that Jesus is alive, that he is among us, and that he is raising this world, going through death and crucifixion to new life where we can be witnesses in a world that needs to hear the message of hope and joy. In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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