Alive And Well

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Easter Sunday Homily April 21, 2019

“Well, the tomb is empty.  He is alive and he is well.  This is something that the Holy Father has talked a lot about in recent talks and in some of his writings that Jesus was not just another historic figure who passed through time but he is alive and well today. This is what we celebrate today, the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, the victory of his resurrection and people who do not have faith sometimes struggle with this.  They struggle to recognize it, they struggle to come to grips with this reality that this is an actual true story that happened. It is not something that is fictional that Jesus Christ conquered death by dying himself and it is a paradox for sure, but it is the essence of what Christianity is and so this is what we celebrate today.  For those of us who call ourselves Christians, today is the greatest most happiest day of the year. It is a day to rejoice and a day for us to celebrate because death no longer has power over us. St. Paul writes about this a lot. He says, ‘where o death is your Victory? Where o death is your sting?’ and that is so true with the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and you know this is something for us to keep in mind often because there is a lot of darkness in our world.  There can be a lot of pain and suffering in our country and even in our own lives we experience physical pain, emotional pain, sickness, loss, disappointment, abandonment, betrayal, the list can go on and on and on and sometimes our sufferings are minor. You know we have minor little aches and pains and sometimes our suffering is not so minor. Sometimes our suffering is pretty heavy, but in our pain and suffering our God is with us because he experienced pain and suffering first hand in the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ who was fully God was also remember fully human and he took that human nature to a cross.

A few days ago on Good Friday we commemorated Jesus death on the cross.  He died on the cross. He was willing to be mistaken for a sinner and a Criminal by being crucified in between two other criminals.  Why? So that he can experience things as we do and so our God has experienced all those little and sometimes not so little aches and pains that we do.  He’s experience pain, sickness, loss, disappointment, certainly betrayal, abandonment and not in some theoretical or hypothetical sense but really, personally, from the inside out and so we cannot say to our God, ‘oh God you just don’t understand.  You don’t understand my pain. You don’t understand my suffering.’ Our God understands our pain and suffering perfectly because he has been there and he has done that and he chose to do it on a cross. He chose a cross. This was not some unfortunate accident that happened to Jesus 2,000 years ago.  Remember Jesus in John’s Gospel also says, ‘no one takes my life from me but I have the power to lay it down. I willingly lay it down. I willfully lay it down and I have the power to take it up again’ and he chose the cross in order to draw all men and women to himself because he loves us and he wants us to be with him in heaven at the end of our Earthly lives.  We can say to someone ‘I love you’ and that’s nice but to show others just how much we love them it is what we are willing to do for them and so Jesus was willing to hang on a cross for us to show us the height and breadth and depth of his sacrificial love. This is the same Jesus who gives himself to us every time we attend Mass on Sunday when we receive him in the Eucharist.  We receive Grace when we receive the Eucharist to help us on our journey toward heaven in this life so that we might be with him for all eternity in the next. Friends this is what our lives are all about or should be about, not our possessions, not the things that we have. I mean these things are good things, but they are meant to help us on our journey toward Heaven. This day is a day of hope.  The catechism of the Catholic Church defines the theological virtue of hope as the virtue by which we desire the kingdom of Heaven and eternal life as our happiness placing trust in Christ’s promise and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. I’m gonna read that first part of that definition again. ‘Hope is the virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness.  So when we say hope as a Christian, as a Catholic, that’s what we’re talkin about, so a question to ask ourselves in light of this definition of Hope, do we desire heaven? At the end of my life do I want to be with Jesus in heaven? Here’s a question to reflect upon, so your life on Earth here is finished and you’re standing in front of the gate and Jesus is behind the gate and he asked you one simple question, ‘why do you want to come in here?’  What would your answer be? Do we strive for Holiness? Do we strive for perfection and charity? Do we strive to live out our baptism in our discipleship in Christ well and in a way that is pleasing to God or we just content with getting by? We are all friends, not to just get by but we are called to holiness. We are called to perfection and charity that’s what all the Saints have in common. Holiness isn’t going around saying a lot of prayers and prayer is certainly good don’t misunderstand me but holiness is perfection and charity perfection in love heroic virtue and that’s what we are called to.  As my mother likes to say, ‘You know none of us are getting out of this alive.’ and so we are people of hope our hope is in the Lord and as baptized persons we have assured and certain hope of eternal life in Christ Jesus. When we were baptized we became a new creation and we were made members of the mystical Body of Christ, so Christ is head of his mystical body The Church and we are all members of that mystical body so when we say church we’re not just talking about this building although it is a church it is God’s house, but when we talk about The Church we’re talking about all of the members all of us who are members of The Church all of us who are members of the body of Christ and so when we are baptized we are made a new creation.  Original sin has been washed away and we share in Christ’s very being and we read this very beautifully last night in St Paul’s letter to the Romans where he talks about ‘we have life in Christ we share in his very being in his very essence’ and that was Paul’s belief and the belief of the early Christians that we are just not part of an organization or community but we are members of Jesus’ sacred body and self, and so his life, the life of Jesus is our life. His death, his human death is our death so that his rising might become our rising. This is our faith. This is our hope. The tomb is empty. He is alive and well. His victory is our victory today and this is what we celebrate today.”