Preached April 1, 2018; St. Peter Catholic Church, The Dalles, Oregon
It can be very disconcerting to find out that you are not alone, when you thought you were.
Imagine coming into your house in the evening, while the rest of the family is away, preparing your dinner and then sitting down at the table to eat before you notice a light on in the living room and someone quietly sitting there. Even if it turned out to be your best friend, who had a key to your house, and who had come over to keep you company while your family was away, it would be quite a shock – so much so that you might have a hard time forgiving your best friend.
Still that would be nothing like the shock if the same thing happened just after your best friend’s funeral! Then imagine, after the two of you embrace, he comes into the dining room, sits down with you and eats with you and you talk together just like old times. Then you go into the kitchen to wash the dishes and when you come back into the living room, he is gone.
I guess that would be a pretty spooky experience, but it would be a good sort of spooky. While it would be disconcerting, nevertheless rather than an experience of things being wrong, it would have been an experience of things being right. After all, our deepest instinct is that death is wrong and life is right.
What, then, must it have been like for Peter and John that first Easter morning when they arrived at the tomb and found no body there? What would it have been like, even before they saw him, as it dawned on them that he was alive and was present? What would it have been like as they realized that in a place where they thought to find the usual victory of death, they had discovered instead the victory of life?
Still, it wasn’t just anyone that they had discovered was alive after having died. Nor had this come after just any old death. This was a man who had been crucified who was now alive. This was the very Son of God made man who had conquered death. This was most truly right and just!
Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, he appeared to his Apostles and disciples, he ate and drank with them after his Resurrection, and he showed them that in truth everything was right. Then he was taken from their sight, and ours, when he ascended into heaven. Jesus Christ lives, no more to die.
This has consequences.
First of all, the life of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, is right and just, but it reveals that our present life in this world is out of order, more a living death than a true life. How could our present life be right, when our best friends here will always die? How could our present life be right, when the Son of God departed from this world and went to his Father, so that we no longer see him.
Second, even though we do not see him, Jesus lives and is present among us; he is among us as the one who truly lives is present among the dead. This is a bit spooky. The whole world has become like a haunted house, but it is a good haunting because the world is haunted by Jesus Christ!
That is a bit of a problem for many because well, the modern world at least has been trying very hard to convince us that we are all alone – no one but ordinary human beings here, thank you. The modern world has been trying very hard to convince us that if we think Jesus is truly alive, then we are just seeing a ghost, like the Apostles thought they were seeing a ghost when Jesus came to them walking over the water.
For all that, Jesus who lives, keeps making his presence felt. The French Revolution thought that they had done away with him. They didn’t. The Russian Revolution thought that they did away with him. They didn’t. The Sexual Revolution thinks that it can do away with Jesus. It can’t. The Computer Revolution thinks that it can do away with Jesus. It can’t. Come on … It didn’t work crucifying him, do you think something else will work?
Third, Jesus shows us that the true life is, well, quite literally out of this world, out of this dying world, out of this world of entropy. The true life is where Jesus is. The true life is where the Virgin Mary is, because she is with Jesus. The true life is where the saints are, because they are with Jesus.
So let us no longer be deceived by the lies of this world, telling us that we are all alone. Rather, let us make use of what remains of this dying life that has been given to us in order to prepare for the true life that has been promised to us.
Christ is Risen, Alleluia!