The Peace Pulpit: Homilies by Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton
|Easter Sunday||April 16, 2006|
God is good! (Parishioners reply, All the time.) Do we really believe that? Lets hear. God is good. (Everyone says together, All the time!) And on Easter we know that its true -- God is good and good all the time. As we try to enter into this mystery of the resurrection of Jesus and what it meant for him, what it means for us, surely the one thing we can say with confidence is that it shows how good God is.
First of all to Jesus ... If weve been praying with the Little Black Book* during the season of Lent, Im sure that we feel close to Jesus. We feel like we know Jesus better than we did before. Jesus really becomes our friend and it was so painful then to experience, together with the disciples you actually were there, the terrible outcome of Jesuss life -- the horrific suffering that he underwent, torture that is almost unimaginable, and finally being put to death in that most ignominious way on the cross. So when that happened the first disciples thought it was all over. They must have begun, probably, to have some sense that God failed. Jesus had pleaded with God to deliver him from this terrible experience.
This morning when those disciples went to the tomb and discovered that Jesus body was gone they didnt know what had happened. But gradually they came to understand. And now they would cry out, Im sure, God is good, because of what God did for Jesus. Its spoken of very beautifully in the letter of St. Paul to the church of Philippi, which we listened to earlier in the season of Lent. Jesus though he was divine did not think his divinity something to be clung to but emptied himself, became human, became a slave even, gave himself over to death, even the ignominious death of the cross. Then Paul says, That is why God exalted him, gave him the name that outshines all names so that at the name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead. All tongues proclaim that Christ, Jesus is the Lord. God has made him Lord, son of God in power restored to the fullness of life forever. See, God is good to Jesus, our brother, our friend.
We rejoice because God is good to Jesus, but theres more to this Easter mystery. God is also good to us. In a few moments we will baptize a couple of our youngest members and this shows us how good God is. Last night at the ceremony you would have heard a passage from St. Paul to the church at Rome where Paul tells us what happens at baptism. Well, what happens to these youngsters, what has happened to all of us, we go down into the waters of baptism; we die. Were buried with Jesus, and then we rise up to new life, the very life of Jesus, the spirit of Jesus within us. See we could speak to God within our own spirit, be in touch with God living within us. God is good to us because God lets us share in the risen life of Jesus. Easter is not just something for Jesus. Its a gift to all of us. The very life of God in Jesus is given to us to nurture, to strengthen; to grow in. And God is good to all of us.
The goodness of God is shown in todays first lesson where Peter, by this time a few weeks after Easter. Remember in the Gospel, he had left -- gone home -- he didnt know what had happened. But now, he is aware that Jesus is alive and so hes ready to preach his good news. And he goes to the home of the centurion, a Roman soldier, an officer of the occupying army and enters into a home that he would have been forbidden to enter in to according to the Jewish law and he proclaims the good news. In the Acts of the Apostles -- you didnt hear it read today but shortly after Peter preached what he heard -- St. Luke tells us that Peter was still speaking when the Holy Spirit came upon all who listened to the word, and the believers of Jewish origin who had come with Peter were amazed. Why? God gives and pours out the Holy Spirit on foreigners also. For indeed this happened. They heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. So Peter carries this good news, and God is good to Cornelius, the Roman centurion, his family and his friends and pours forth the spirit upon them.
But when we reflect on this and come to understand how good God is to us, because God has ratified everything Jesus has stood for by raising him from the dead, then we must also begin to understand that God is calling us to change our lives because that spirit of Jesus is alive within us now. We have to live according to the way of Jesus. God not only ratified Jesus but ratified all that Jesus stood for by raising him from the dead. The Jesus who preached nonviolence, who preached love of enemy and who did it, the Jesus who was always reaching out in service to others and teaching us, Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me, the Jesus who gave himself totally in sharing of himself and of all his goods and urges his followers, Share what you have so everybody has enough..... That message of Jesus we have to begin to live. In a way I think this might be true: I think were more ready to accept the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead than we are ready to accept the other part of this truth, that the resurrection means we have to follow the way of Jesus, that God ratified that way of Jesus by raising him from the dead.
Oh yes, we will rejoice, Jesus is risen! Alleluia! but are we also ready to say, I will change my life. I will live according to the way of Jesus. Thats what Peter did. Before the resurrection, Peter would not have entered the home of a pagan. He would not have shared a meal with that pagan. He was ready to change everything. And what about Cornelius? He was a Roman soldier, part of the occupying army -- he now follows Jesus. He gives up his career. He has to. He totally changes his life. Are we ready to say yes to God? Were saying yes to the risen Jesus but are we ready to say yes to all that Jesus stands for?
And I suggest a rather challenging current event that we might ask ourselves about. For the last couple of weeks there has been a trial going on of Zacharias Moussaoui. Im sure you probably have heard about it. The jury first had to answer the question, Is he responsible for any of the deaths at the World Trade Center by not sharing information that he had when he was arrested by the FBI before that event happened? Unanimously the jury said, Yes, he is responsible. Now they are deliberating, Should he get life in prison or should he be executed? Now what would Jesus do, the Jesus who says you must love your enemy? That means even Zacharias Moussaoui. That may be hard for us. Obviously, its very hard for the families who lost loved ones at the World Trade Center. But the only way were going to change our world is if we begin to follow the way of Jesus.
Theres a saying that Violence ends where love begins. Jesus showed us that when he died on the cross. He accepted all the violence, absorbed the hatred and loved in response. Violence ends where love begins. And this is what we must come to understand. It means changing our attitude, changing our thinking in dramatic and very deep ways. The Easter mystery -- the death, the resurrection, the new life of Jesus -- that we share in today in a very special way. Will we become aware of how we share that risen life of Jesus? That Easter mystery calls us to change our lives radically and deeply.
I hope and pray for myself, for all of us, and ask you to pray too that we may be converted deeply to the way of Jesus. Then we really will be celebrating all that Easter stands for, all that Easter is, all that the risen Jesus is and stands for. Probably then, more than we ever have before, we will know God is good all the time. Say it: God is good all the time.
So with that Happy Easter and good prayers.
*Editorís Note: The Little Black Books that Bishop Gumbleton mentions are produced in the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan. During his tenure as bishop of the Saginaw, Bishop Ken Untener wrote inspirational passages based on Scripture for each day of special seasons of the Liturgical Church year, Advent, Lent, Easter. The name of each small book comes from the color of its simple cover: black, blue or white. They became so popular that parishes, religious orders, and other folks from beyond the diocese began ordering them. Bishop Untener died March 27, 2004, after a short struggle with cancer. In his honor and memory, his friends in the diocese continue to publish these meditation booklets. To order these books, visit the Web site for the Diocese of Saginaw.
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