The Lord Jesus has risen from the dead
Bishop Peter Muhich
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Easter Sunday, April 9, 2023
They did not understand at that time that Jesus had to rise from the dead.
We celebrate the resurrection once again on this Easter Sunday, having recalled that Jesus entered into the holy city of Jerusalem to accomplish our salvation last Sunday and following him through the events of that last week of his life throughout the days of Holy Week.
Gathering with him are his disciples in the upper room to remember the institution of the Eucharist on Thursday evening, where he changed, or transformed, the great Passover meal of the Jewish people into the Eucharist and established the priesthood. We remember that he was arrested and tried before Caiaphas the high priest in the Sanhedrin. How he was condemned. Pilate gave permission for his crucifixion. We solemnly marked his death on Good Friday. And then we quietly waited to begin to celebrate his resurrection as things unfolded in that original set of events on the third day. And here we are on that third day when the disciples go to the empty tomb and realize for the first time that something new has happened. He has risen just as he said.
Easter celebrates that the Lord Jesus has risen from the dead. He who was sentenced in the world by the Father, preached repentance for sin, who performed mighty miracles and cast out demons, although innocent, was condemned to death by crucifixion, is risen.
In just a few moments after this homily, we will have the opportunity to renew our baptismal promises, to profess our faith solemnly, declaring formally that his death and resurrection has saved us. Then the power of the Holy Spirit, with the waters of baptism, we now live in him, and he lives in us. We die and rise with Christ in that first great sacrament of the church. And we live in him now, to the glory of the Father.
The resurrection really is the end all and be all of the Christian faith. If Jesus Christ has not risen from the dead, then we bishops and priests should go get honest jobs and all Christians find a different religion. If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, this whole thing is a fraud. But if he has, then he is who he said he is, and he must, when we come to that realization, become the absolute center of our lives. The resurrection is really that important and central, and I pray that you feel that in your bones as we celebrate Easter once again.
Now, what lessons can we draw from the resurrection? Well, many, many lessons, but we’ll concentrate on three today. I’ll give credit where credit’s due. These are the insights of Bishop Robert Barron and one of his commentaries on the resurrection. He’s a bishop in our province now. He’s in Winona/Rochester, Minnesota. I’ve met him several times, and I’ve told him that I steal his ideas from time to time, and he said, “You have my full permission.”
In his commentary, he talks about three lessons the resurrection can teach us. The first can be summarized like this: this world is not all there is. This world is not all there is. Not that the world is bad, or that we should ignore the world, but the world of our immediate experience, the world of our secular culture, that this is just all there is. That’s what the secular culture sees. We simply live for a while, and then we don’t live anymore. That’s not true. There is more to reality than this.
God is, instead, as we mark the resurrection, fashioning a new heaven and a new earth to transfigure this world, which is good but fallen because of sin, into something much more. The resurrection is the great indication of the truth of this. The death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ challenges our secular culture and its sense of meaninglessness. That you and I are here just for a while, and then we die, and eventually we’ll be forgotten, and then those who remember us will be forgotten as well because they will pass. That meaninglessness, which really is embedded in our secular culture, is challenged by the resurrection. We proclaim to the world, as the first Christians did, that something else is the case. That God is up to something beyond what meets the eye and that we’re made from that sense of living beyond the limits of this world. You and I have immortal souls and we’re created to live forever. The good news is we’re created to live forever in friendship with God in his kingdom of everlasting life. So that’s the first lesson: this world is not all there is.
The second lesson the resurrection can teach us could be summarized in the following words: tyrants, your time is up. The first Christians saw Jesus, their friend, and master, put to death by the Romans in collusion with some, some of the Jewish leaders. The cross was, in the days of the Roman Empire, the great sign of Roman power and tyranny. If you get in our way crucifixion said, and crosses were displayed publicly where people did get in the way of Rome. If you get in our way, we will crucify you and put you to a horrific death.
Crucifixion was a public humiliation. So, when God raised Jesus from the dead, he who has been crucified, what does it say to the first Christians? It says no, Caesar’s power is not final. His tyranny, in fact, is under judgment, and Christians have used this truth to powerful effect throughout the ages.
Think back to the papacy of John Paul II. Remember when he was really a new pope, young and vigorous, he requested to go back to his native Poland to make a pastoral visit and the communist government at first said, “no.” He wanted to go on the patronal feast of Saint Stanislaus their great patronal saint, and they thought, “no that’s going to be too dangerous.” But eventually, they actually allowed him to come back for a longer period of time, and he gathered in one of the greatest gatherings of his visit back in Poland in the public square in Warsaw. They had erected for him, it was outdoor, a huge wooden cross with a banner over its arms, and he spoke next to that from a podium. The communist government was there with all of its power, backed up with the vast power of the Soviet empire at the time, and it couldn’t compete with that cross and the words of a follower of Christ who spoke of God’s love, of the power of the death and resurrection of Christ. And it didn’t happen at that time immediately, but that helped to lead to the fall of the communist government in Poland and eventually the fall of the Soviet empire.
There is true power in the cross. The cross says, no matter what you do to us, God’s power will prevail. That’s why it’s important for us to publicly display crosses and not let our secular culture pressure us into privatizing that great sign of Christ’s victory, which says to the tyrants your time is up.
The third lesson that the resurrection can teach us is that the way of hope is open to everyone. The cross is the journey of the Son of God all the way to the limits of human suffering and alienation, even death on a cross. Even God forsakenness. That’s why Jesus cries out using part of Psalm 22, “My god, my god, why have you forsaken me.” He had taken up the space and taken on to himself all of human sin and alienation. In his suffering, he takes everything onto himself. Jesus was sent all the way out to get everyone. Everyone who has wandered far away from God is now gathered, at least that’s Jesus’ desire, gathered by him in his invitation through suffering and death and resurrection, to come back to the Father. The outstretching of Jesus’ arms on the cross and his suffering encompass everyone and all human sin. In the resurrection of the son, in the power of the Holy Spirit, everyone can be brought back to God. There’s no one outside of the reach of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. The cross proclaims, and the resurrection of Jesus celebrates that the way of hope is open to everyone, no matter what they’ve done.
As you renew your baptismal promises at my invitation now, in just a moment, let the power of the resurrection resonate in your heart and let your life witness, announce to those around you, to our world, to our families, your communities, and are more and more secular culture, that this world is not all there is. We are made for something more. That the tyranny of worldly power is under judgment and will not prevail. The way of hope is open to everyone.
Jesus, suffering in death, goes to the limits of every human sin, every person alienated from the Father, to bring them back. Let us say with the early Christians and with the church, who proclaimed this great victory of Christ’s resurrection, for centuries now, to a world very much in need of knowing this good news — that Jesus Christ is risen, just as he said.