Easter Sunday homily 2015

Easter Sunday

                                                                                                                                                April 5, 2015

 

 

In his book, “Jesus:  A Pilgrimage” the Jesuit James Martin writes:

God’s gift is often not what we expect.  Mary Magdalene discovered that on Easter Sunday.  And—as with Mary—sometimes it takes time to grasp that what we are experiencing is a resurrection…

                                                                                                                                                      (p.414)

 

Resurrection that is a breakthrough; a return to life where I am never again quite the same.

This came to mind yesterday morning while reading an Op-Ed piece by Amanda Knox in the Seattle Times.  In it, she looks back over the seven and a half years in Italy; that murky and horrific ordeal where, at times, she felt “most vulnerable and almost entirely lost” due to a murder and wrongful conviction.

Looking back, she now sees the ‘gift’; the light shining out of darkness.  And she writes:

I survived because my dear family gave up their lives to be with me…Whatever the future holds for me, I know I must give back.

Whatever your thoughts on this prolonged and messy trial might be, what we see happening to this woman who felt vulnerable and lost—more dead than alive—is a kind of resurrection:  a breakthrough and a life given back.  Never to be the same again, she’s more alive—you sense it within her written words; more intent on giving back.

Inexplicably, a gift has been given her and in a way she could never expect nor choose.  Her life has been given back to her; yet not the life she lived before, however.  She’s been changed profoundly by these circumstances, I would imagine.  A kind of breakthrough has happened where her former life’s left behind, a life shrouded in self-absorption.  Through this ordeal and wrongful conviction she has grown beyond her previously small world and now wants only to give back; to make a difference.   She emerges from the entombment of this experience, changed.

Life, with all its confusion, mishap, searching and struggle is indeed a gift.  Yet, we fail to see the gift life is because of expectations.  That first Easter morning and “while it was still dark” Mary Magdalene expected to find Jesus.  Yet, what she found was only the empty tomb and burial cloths; remnants of a presence now eluding her.  She’s yet to see the gift of Christ’s resurrection because she continues to cling to expectations.

Do we not find something of ourselves in the Magdalene’s blind clinging; her expectations? 

God’s gift is often not what we expect, because God comes to us in ways unexpected; who “writes straight with crooked lines” as it’s been said.  God cannot be grasped.  Like any gift, there must first exist in us openness without expectation when approaching God.  This is hard to fathom within this grasping, impatient world of ours.

 We must learn to let the Risen Christ and this gift of life approach.  Life with its gift has its own timing, and can’t be manipulated nor rushed.  We must learn to wait within the emptiness as did Mary and the other disciples; to enter it which can be a little terrifying, actually.  Facing the emptiness within ourselves is never easy.

My confessor would often quote the mystic, St. Gertrude and the words Christ once said to her in a vision:  “Come to me empty and I will fill you”.   The empty tomb teaches a secret to anyone willing to learn:  we must empty ourselves before arriving at the fulfilling presence that is Christ; who alone meets in us that deepest hunger; a hunger for meaning, a hunger for love.

God’s gift is often not what we expect.   It takes time to grasp that, what we are experiencing, is a resurrection.

The empty tomb teaches us that emptiness is necessary for belief.  Paradoxically, the emptiness we face makes room for God if we choose not to fill it.

Years ago at the monastery, I remember working the ground around some trees one afternoon.  It was spring.  Underneath a blossoming cherry I spied an empty robin’s egg.   I knelt and held   both jagged halves in my hand.   The emptiness spoke of new life; of presence.  Life within that shell, once good, had become confining.   The fledgling, when it was time, broke through the shell due to an innate need for growth and desire to take flight.

Too often, we’re more dead than alive, our faith embryonic because of this unwillingness to practice resurrection: to break through the confining tendencies that keep God small and our lives lacking in spiritual growth.

In an Audience address during Holy Week two years ago Pope Francis said:

Living Holy Week, following Jesus, means learning to come out of ourselves in order to meet others…those who are forgotten, those who are most in need of understanding, comfort and help.  There is such a great need to bring the living presence of Jesus, merciful and full of love…

Following and accompanying Christ…demands “coming out of ourselves”…to come out of a dreary way of living faith that has become a habit, out of the temptation to withdraw into our own plans, which end by shutting out God’s creative action…We need to come out of ourselves, just as Jesus came out of himself for all of us.       (pp. 72-73)

To come out of ourselves; from a life that withdraws into my own plans; where, spiritually, I’m more dead than alive.   Such a breakthrough is the way we grow beyond our confining, limiting tendencies.  In this way, we practice resurrection, and the lesson of the egg shell a fledgling leaves behind makes the empty tomb real and no figment of the imagination; for there’s more to life than we know when we learn to see everything with the eyes of faith.  When we do, then we encounter the gift that is life.

When Peter and the other Disciple enter the tomb, both see the burial cloths; both sense evasive emptiness.  Yet, it is this other Disciple who alone “sees and believes.”    He teaches that such seeing—such faith—opens   us to the gift if we empty ourselves, leave behind expectations and receive life as it comes to us. 

A story by Jerry Braza, in his book “Moment by Moment”:

 

I recall a time driving my young children somewhere when we approached a railroad crossing as the lights began to flash and the safety gate went down.  My first thought was, “Oh no!  We’re going to be held up by a train and be late.”  Just then, my daughter called out from the backseat, “Daddy, Daddy, we’re so lucky!  We get to watch the train go by!”  Her awareness of the present moment was a wonderful reminder to stop and enjoy what the journey had to offer along the way.

                                                                                                    

                                                                                                                  (p. 13 in R. Wick’s “Perspective”)

 

On this Easter Day and beyond, may we find the grace to empty ourselves of blinding expectations that obscure our vision of the Risen One ever in our midst; the Gift that keeps on giving and that comes to us in ways unexpected.

A Blessed Easter to all of you!

 

Father Tim Clark, Pastor

Our Lady of the Lake Parish, Seattle

 

 
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