This Week's Word
Seeing, Believing and Sharing the Good News of Easter
This is the homily Bishop Paul S. Loverde of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington will deliver tomorrow, Easter Sunday.
What is the one single event that has most influenced and changed human history? The disciples of Jesus Christ have only one answer, which they proclaim without reservation, indisputably and absolutely: the dying and rising of God's only-begotten Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Yes, the rising of Jesus Christ from His human death on the cross to new and unending life on the third day has forever influenced and changed human history and, indeed, our lives. One sentence in the Easter Scripture readings, from the Gospel according to Saint John, gives us the key to understanding how and why the rising of Jesus Christ makes all the difference: "And he saw and believed."
When Mary Magdalen announced to Simon Peter and John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, that "they have taken the Lord from the tomb," they sprinted to the place where Christ had been buried. Once Simon Peter went into the tomb, John followed him "and he saw and believed."
What did John see? The same thing that Simon Peter saw: "the burial cloths and the cloth that had covered Jesus' head, not with the burial cloths, but rolled up in a separate place." The presence of the cloths and their position indicated that the person who was wrapped in them had passed out of them. John understood that no one had stolen the body of Jesus because the cloths were in place, not disheveled, and the head cloth rolled up by itself.
John saw the same stark reality that Simon Peter saw, and ". . . he saw and believed." How? John saw with the inner eye of faith. And so, John came to the realization that Jesus Christ had risen just as He had promised. Yes, John observed the same reality, but he saw it differently. Here is the primary lesson for us: The disciples of the Risen Christ witness the same reality as everyone else, but we see it differently: with faith and hope. The Risen Lord Jesus is Christ our Hope and because He is, we see everything differently!
In another Easter Scripture reading, taken from his first Letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul refers to yeast: "Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?" With few exceptions, yeast in the Jewish mentality symbolized an evil influence. This is why Saint Paul counsels us to clean out the old yeast, "the yeast of malice and wickedness." However, I propose that we see "yeast" in a positive manner. I would call it "Easter yeast," which is, in fact, a different mindset: the Easter outlook, the Christian attitude. We must insert into our daily lives this "Easter yeast" rooted in the Risen Christ who is our hope.
How can this happen? For example, some among us may be struggling with a persistent, sinful habit -- something that continually separates us from God. The Risen Christ, who is our hope, has conquered evil and sin, overcoming Satan. The more we let Him enter our hearts, the more strength we will have to keep trying to overcome our sinful habit. And when we fall, as indeed could happen through human weakness, the powerful grace of God's forgiveness will enable us to get up once again and continue the struggle. Like Saint John, we see and believe.
We face a grave economic situation, which impacts all of us in one way or another. There is no immediate solution to the stark economic issues we face. Yet, through faith in Christ our Hope, we can come to realize that we are united to Christ and to each other in love. These relationships give us the strength to persevere. Moreover, the "Easter yeast" provides an opportunity for those of us who have more to reach out and help our sisters and brothers who have less. Like Saint John, we see and believe.
What else do we see differently? We proclaim and witness the fundamental right to life with the eyes of a hopeful and faithful Christian. There are those among us who do not understand that the foundation, the hinge, upon which all of our culture and society rests, is respect for the sacredness of human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. This lack of understanding or blindness or, even worse, stubbornness of mind and heart, is truly a great stone, an obstacle. Yet, Christ our Hope has exited the tomb, the stone is rolled away. Life, indeed, is victorious! We must, therefore, be witnesses to the dignity of our fellow man, so that others will accept the truth about life. Again, faith rooted in Christ our Hope allows us to see life differently, to cherish all of life! Like Saint John, we see and believe.
When Pope Benedict XVI recently celebrated Mass in Angola during his pastoral visit to Africa, he told the congregation, "Today it is up to you to offer the Risen Christ to your fellow citizens." Yes, my brothers and sisters, we are His witnesses, the "Easter yeast," who, filled with hope in the Risen Christ, have been "commissioned," as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, to present Christ to others in sincerity and truth. This we must do every day, with our families, our neighbors, in our places of work, in our parishes and in our communities.
Yes, like Saint John, we see and believe! With this "Easter yeast," let us go forth, with faith and hope in the Risen Christ, and live the Good News of Easter!