Sunday, April 8, 2012

The First Day of the Week

Homily from Easter Sunday - Year B

A very blessed, happy and holy Easter to you all.  It is a truly beautiful day.  The forecast was predicting rain today.  I remember as a kid, if it was dark, cloudy and rainy on Good Friday, I was happy because I thought, “This is how it was on that day.  Darkness covered the whole land.  See, God is replaying for us with this rain how it happened on that day.”  I thought it was a real neat way of entering into the mystery.  You know like how we want snow for Christmas.
Then, if the weather was “perfect” on Easter morning, I thought, “Yeah, this is how it should be.  The sun is shining, the flowers are in bloom, the birds are singing, the Cubs will win today.  Everything is perfect.”
But it’s just as perfect, perhaps even more so, if we are given the opportunity to celebrate Easter Sunday when it is cloudy, rainy, dark.  Because it tells us, metaphorically of course, that no matter what darkness we might experience in our lives, Christ is still risen.  He has conquered death.  He is the Son of God who, created us, has given us life, and has saved us from sin.  He gives us, even in the midst of darkness, a new beginning.
This is the meaning of the opening verse from today’s Gospel.  The Gospel tells us that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb “on the first day of the week.” (Jn 20:1)  The great thing about the Scriptures is that there are no minor, insignificant details.  In pointing out that the Resurrection occurred on the first day of the week, John, and the other evangelists, wish to point out that something new has occurred.
With Jesus’ victory over death on the first day of the week, a new age has dawned.  The Resurrection marks the “first day” of the new creation.
Those words, “on the first day,” should bring to mind the very beginning of Sacred Scripture, the very beginning of creation.
It was on the first day, that “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  God saw how good the light was.  God then separated the light from the darkness.” (Gen 1:3)  Likewise, on Easter Sunday, the first day of the week, God proverbially said, ‘Let there be light.  The light of the Son risen from the tomb.”  And how good that light is.
Notice too in Genesis that when God creates light, this does not mean that there will be an end to darkness.  However, God separates the light from the darkness.
Likewise, when the light of the resurrection pierces that first day, the darkness does not cease to be.  In fact, the Gospel tells us that “Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark.” (Jn 20:1)  What this tells us, like the weather today, is there is still darkness in the world, but no matter what darkness we might experience in our lives Christ is risen.  The resurrection does not eradicate completely the darkness of sin from our world.  The resurrection does not promise that our lives will be easy.  Instead the resurrection promises that in the midst of darkness, difficulty and death, Jesus Christ will always be victorious provided we walk towards his light.  With the resurrection, God indeed separates light from darkness.  With the resurrection, we can see the light, Jesus Christ, penetrating through the darkness  As John says in the very beginning of his Gospel: “What came to be through [Jesus] was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
On this day, Easter Sunday, the first day of the week.  Jesus Christ risen from the dead offers us new life and new light.  How beautiful it was this Lent to see this new life and light break out into the lives of so many people.
How beautiful it was to hear in the confessional, “Father, it’s been 5, 10, 20, 30 years since my last confession.”  That was “the first day” for those who received the light of Jesus’ mercy.
How beautiful it was to hear a couple say, “We’re expecting!”  And another to say, “Our adoption was approved.”  That was “the first day” for those who received the light of new life from Christ.
How beautiful it was to go to the teen’s Life House as they were preparing for the Spring  retreat, and as soon as I walk through the door at 9PM on a Tuesday night, to have them jump up and beg, “Father, can we have Eucharistic Adoration after we’re done?”  That was “the first day” of an intensifying of the light of Christ in their lives.
How beautiful it was weeks later to see over 130 teens on retreat going to confession, receiving our Lord in the Eucharist at Mass, worshipping him in Eucharistic Adoration and coming back to Church.  That was “the first day” of them being set on fire with the light of Christ.
How beautiful it was the following week to see over 30 of these same teens come to 6:30AM Mass on a Tuesday morning before school.  That was “the first day” of the light of Christ continuing to burn within them.
How beautiful it was to see 7 catechumens walk through the waters of baptism at last night’s Easter Vigil, joined by over 20 more candidates who received the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist for the first time.  That was “the first day” of their lives as Catholics
Now, here is the really good news; here is the Gospel: this happens not just every Easter, but every Sunday.  Every Sunday throughout the entire year is an Easter.  And we as Christians and Catholics celebrate each and every Sunday the new life Christ has won for us.
As Catholics, we experience Lent, not just for 40 days out of every year.  We experience Lent every Friday as we remember the day the Lord gave his life for us.  We remember that day though acts of penance and prayer, especially by praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.
And as Catholics, we experience Easter, not just this day only, but every Sunday.  Not a single Sunday of our lives should pass by without our giving thanks to Jesus within this community, for saving us from the darkness of sin, by giving himself to us as the light that shines in the darkness of death.
Continue to receive this gift of new light and new life from Jesus Christ, week after week after week throughout your lives.  And celebrate with joy Jesus’ life, death and resurrection given for you every “first day of the week.”

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