Easter Sunday Homily, April 1st, 2018

Easter Sunday

                                                                                                                                                April 1st, 2018

“A person all wrapped up in himself makes a very small package” writes Eugene Peterson in his book, “Traveling Light”.

Jesus was never one to be wrapped up in himself.  Often, he would throw caution to the wind whenever faced with those bound or constrained in any way.  With such tender mercy he even undid the knot of sin.

Jesus opened himself whenever faced with such predicaments and that continue to live within the pages of the gospels for the sake of us all.  Did Jesus not risk his  reputation by healing on the Sabbath, revealing that compassion must break free from the constraints of religious observance or any law    whenever faced with the plight of people in need?

How easy it is to be wrapped up in oneself and so miss altogether the weightier matters:  mercy and justice.  Too many  are wrapped up in xenophobic fear when it comes to the plight of immigrants today.   Too often there’s felt the bluster of self-righteous indignation when it comes to the debate over 2nd amendment rights, all of which conceals, like some deadly weapon, the greater good.

Simply, Jesus was delivered into this fallen world and walked this earth that he might deliver us from whatever constrains and leaves life bound; ourselves more dead than alive.

Jesus desires to set us free from whatever keeps us wrapped up in the self so  we might begin to “run on the path of God’s way with hearts expanded” as St. Benedict describes it in his 5th century Rule for monks.

With this in mind, I find it telling and rather significant that Peter and the Other Disciple find, not Jesus, but the shroud in which his body was wrapped that first Easter.  It’s left behind.  Left behind as well is the cloth that covered his face; folded and in a separate place.   It’s rather touching how, in that dawning, luminous moment, the Risen Jesus takes time to fold this cloth which covered his face in death.  By rising to life, Jesus lifts the veil from all faces that we might learn to see; all of us enfolded within Christ’s memory and set apart to continue the work of saving love that he began.  While there’s time, we are here to build; to give ourselves to the labor of love.

With that face cloth in mind, I recall how, in this life, Jesus demonstrated an attention to detail.  Time and again he focused on the small and every day:  from flowers in a field to birds sky-bound and freed from worry.  Time and again, Jesus points our attention to what is easily overlooked:   the jots and tittles of life and what’s daily offered us.  We tend to lose sight of such things, wrapped up in ourselves as we are.

Because of the Resurrection, Jesus remains within the small and the everyday; like bread and wine and within every breath we take.  As the disciples discover the tomb empty and immediately find themselves amazed by what they see, we’re called to this same discovery:  To believe that there’s more to life than meets the eye.  If we rise up and allow this to happen we’ll begin to live in a new manner; less wrapped up in the self and more alive to what is too often taken for granted.

In her selection of poems called, “Blue Horses” Mary Oliver puts it this way:         

 

                                                I know, you never intended to be in this world.

                                                But you’re in it all the same.

                                                So why not get started immediately.

                                                I mean, belonging to it.

                                                There is so much to admire, to weep over.

                                                And to write music or poems about.

                                                Bless the feet that take you to and fro.

                                                Bless the eyes and the listening ears.

                                                Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.

                                                Bless touching.  (p.63)

“A person wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.”    As a follow up to this insight, Eugene Peterson mentions how selfishness often disguises itself as self-sufficiency; a disguise alive and well today.  He writes:

For most people taking care of the self first is a “denial of one’s need for community with others, which is in fact a form of selfishness, since it is always accompanied by a refusal of one’s obligation of community with others.  The steps from a reasonable self-concern to an utter selfishness are short and swift.  (p.178)

I recall the adage which goes:  “A shroud has no pockets.”  In other words, we are here not to get, but to give. 

Is not all this talk about building walls, figuratively as well as literally, a deadly sign of this refusal, a refusal rooted in that Original sin; its bitter aftertaste lingering inside us still.

In the Resurrection, a mystery transcending time, Jesus rolls away such inert selfishness; like a stone.  We see this happening even now when we learn to love as Christ loves: focusing our attention and vital concern on those “least ones” where Christ continues to lie hidden; like seed buried in rich soil. 

As I mentioned at the beginning of Lent, I believe there’s within each of us a “yearning to be part of something larger than myself”.  Life can be larger than the day-after-day frustrations, resentments and predictable defeats which threaten hope.

The resurrection is not something that just happened once in Jesus’ body, but not in ours.  As in death so, too, by the resurrection Jesus is alive for the sake of us all; with the utter selflessness of love.  Jesus refuses no one.

The yearning to be a part of something larger hints at resurrection and this desire to belong; our lives rooted in a greater mystery. This yearning I liken to spring’s resilience that hides within the seeming deadness of winter.   The writer Camus said:  “It was in the midst of winter that I discovered an invincible spring within me.”  We are created for life, despite the inevitability of death. 

Though we may find ourselves preoccupied and concerned this Easter Day—our lives like an immoveable stone; selfish and afraid—we must not give up or lose sight of the hope Christ’s resurrection offers.  We must not lose sight of what leaves us amazed in this life; folded as it is within the everyday.  Such discoveries possess the grace to open us, bringing us to the threshold of belief with that Other Disciple in today’s gospel.   He “sees and believes”. 

Recently, I sensed such belief, such hope in the musical “Hamilton”.  After seeing the performance with friends, I read the libretto afterwards. 

It all comes together when everything seems to be unravelling at the end; the paradoxical nature of grace.  Did this not happen to Jesus at the end?   There’s a duel between Hamilton and Aaron Burr; a duel in which Hamilton dies.

In this final scene, Burr’s life, so wrapped up in the self, begins to unfold and as he begins to see; to believe in what he thought not possible.  He sings the words:

                                                I should’ve known.

                                                I should’ve known

                                                The world was wide enough for both

                                                        Hamilton and me.

                                                The world was wide enough for both

                                                        Hamilton and me.

Before Hamilton is shot and dies, he, too, ‘sees’ and as he sings of “the other side”; how life goes on despite death; words addressed to his wife Eliza:

                                                 I’m running out of time, I’m running and my time’s up.

                                                Wise up. Eyes up.

                                                I catch a glimpse of the other side.

                                                My son is on the other side.

                                                He’s with my mother on the other side

                                                Teach me how to say goodbye.

                                                Rise up, rise up, rise up,

                                                Eliza

                                                My love, take your time.

                                                I’ll see you on the other side.

This Easter Day, let us desire to find ourselves less bound and more free; less wrapped up in the self because of the Risen Christ. 

May we “wise up” with “eyes up” to discover that this world is wide enough; our hearts expanded and more alive because of Christ. 

This Easter Day and beyond, let us not lose sight of the other side; believing that death is not the end, but a threshold into a life with many rooms, and wide enough for all who yearn.

 

Father Tim Clark, Pastor

Our Lady of the Lake, Seattle

 
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