Fr. Jolly’s Homily for Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018

Egyptian pyramids are world-famous as one of the “seven Wonders” of the world.
But they are actually gigantic tombs containing the mummified bodies of Egyptian
Pharaohs. Westminster Abby is famous and thousands visit it because the dead
bodies of famous writers, philosophers and politicians are entombed there. But
there is a Shrine of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, and pilgrims from all over the
world visit a tomb there which is empty with a note at its entrance which says, “He
is not here.” It is famous because Jesus Christ who was once buried there rose
from the dead, leaving an empty tomb as he had told his disciples he would. Thus,
he worked the most important miracle in his life, defying the laws of nature and
proving that he is God. We rejoice at this great and unique event by celebrating
Easter.

Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church for three reasons.

  1. The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian faith. It is the greatest of
    the miracles – it proves that Jesus is God. That is why St. Paul writes: “If Christ
    has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your faith is in vain” (I Cor
    15: 14). “Jesus is Lord, he is risen” (Rom 10: 9) was the central theme of the
    kerygma (or ‘preaching’), of the apostles because Jesus prophesied it as a sign of
    his divinity: “Tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again” (Jn 2:
    19). The founder of no other religion has an empty tomb as Jesus has.
  2. Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection. Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of
    Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will live even
    though he dies” (Jn 11: 25-26).
  3. Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement in this world of pain, sorrows
    and tears. It reminds us that life is worth living. It is our belief in the real presence of the
    risen Jesus that gives meaning to our personal as well as our communal prayer, strength
    to fight against temptations and freedom from unnecessary worries and fears.

Our lives are full of death, death in all shapes and sizes. Usually we are worried
only about the ultimate death of the body. But we are not worried about the little
deaths that we are faced more frequently. The deaths of the spirit and the soul
which come with the bully in the schoolyard, from ethical sacrifices we make in
our lives, from addictions of all kinds; addictions to work, to drugs, to alcohol, to
pornography and to abortion. . We die when our whole lives start to be ruled by
addictions. And we all have them, every one of us; we just may not call them by
that name. We live in the midst of death. People of all ages are suffering from
loneliness, family breakdown, and lack of full-time employment, financial
difficulties, abuse, despair and stress. A growing number of them live and die
without enjoying the peace and Happiness of Easter. It does not have to be like
that. My question is this: How can this Easter really make a difference in their
lives? And does Easter somehow make all that go away?

Life Messages: Easter is an invitation to lead a life of resurrection. Easter gives us
the joyful message that we are a “resurrection people.” This means that we are not
supposed to lie buried in the tomb of our sins, evil habits, dangerous addictions,
despair, discouragement or doubts. Instead, we are expected to live a joyful and
peaceful life, constantly experiencing the real presence of the resurrected Lord in
all the events of our lives and amid the boredom, suffering, pain and tensions of
our day-to-day life. For many in the United States, the joy of Easter means to
return to the things we gave up for Lent. It’s back to chocolate, sweets, soft drinks,
ice cream, etc. Yes, we do have to “celebrate and rejoice” on Easter (Lk 15:32),
and these treats help us to celebrate, but if we find our joy simply in returning to
the old life we lived before Lent, we will have missed Easter.

This morning, I was talking to priest friend of mine working in Germany. He
celebrated the Easter Vigil at an inner-city church about to be closed. It was the
last Easter Vigil celebrated at this church. As he started the celebration he was
surprised and shocked. Only five people were in the main body of the church.
There were 5 people in the choir too. It broke his heart to see this parish in ruins —
a parish which previously had two assistant pastors and a school taught by ten
nuns. Nevertheless, he celebrated the Easter Vigil. He celebrated by faith, not by
sight (2 Cor 5:7). Although we looked and felt dead he was filled with the hope of
the resurrection.

My dear friends, by renewing our baptismal promise, let us surrender our life to
the Risen Christ. Whoever die with Christ will rise with him for eternal glory!
Easter is a symbol of new life. Let this Easter be a new beginning for you. If you
have been away from the church, let this Easter be a new beginning for you. If you
have been away from your family, let this Easter be a new beginning for you. If
have been addicted to alcohol, drug and sex, or pornography, let this Easter be a
new beginning for you. If you hear nothing else this morning remember this,
people who encounter the risen Christ are never the same. We become a new
person, a new creation in Christ Jesus. As the Scriptures say the old has gone and
the new has come. Romans 6:4 And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the
glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Happy Easter!