Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of the Lord

April 17, 2022
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, TX

Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20:1-9

“Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that He had to rise from the dead.” While many converts to the Catholic faith describe coming to an awareness of the integrity of Catholic doctrine with the Gospel and sound reason as the only way for them to find God, it is important that we understand that we cannot read or study our way into conversion as a Catholic. It is not a decision that we make independently of God. Conversion and the virtue of faith is entirely a matter of grace and not acquired by our own initiative.

The Gospel describes a scene of three followers of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, and John, the beloved disciple. The scene begins with grief, moves to fear and incredulity, culminates in hope and points for all three to the need for deeper understanding of the fullness of the truth about reality as it has been changed by the Resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel depicts these three followers of Jesus who have a genuine experience with spiritual ramifications. They are each in various places of understanding. It is overpowering, but it is only the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the birth of the Church, which will bring them the full understanding of faith, the fortitude of hope, and the peace of charity.

Mary Magdalene has the initial experience of the empty tomb with the stone rolled away. The other disciple who outruns Peter comes to believe before He understands the Scriptures revealing the requirement that Christ rise from the dead. We see Peter, who is still ashamed for his denial of Jesus in His hour of need, who arrives late at the empty tomb. Then we see Peter again but in the Acts of Apostles, leading, preaching with confidence, and articulating the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.

After the Risen Christ first appeared to His disciples, it would take another 50 days for them to understand fully and be changed permanently by His Resurrection, and even then, they were not yet ready to bear witness to others that Jesus Christ is Lord. That would require the Pentecostal fire of the Holy Spirit, the final gift of the Risen Lord to His new Church. But once that gift had been received, then all of the disciples would be sent as witnesses to the truth and the power and the glory of the new life of grace revealed in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Peter appears to be stronger in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles than in the Gospel because we see Peter in the Book of Acts as having received the gift of the Holy Spirit, including wisdom, understanding counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord at Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. The Holy Spirit brings about what Christ designed in that the Church is indispensable for gradually coming to a right understanding of spirituality and what Jesus taught and continues to teach through the ministry of the Church. We receive these same gifts of the Holy Spirit at Baptism and with more intensity at Confirmation.

The infused moral virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice are given to us in the grace of conversion and at our Baptism and again at Confirmation. The same is true for the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. These are complete and immediate blessings of grace; yet grace heals and completes human nature only gradually and with the cooperation of the person who receives grace as they grow and develop as human beings. This underscores the Church’s practice of baptizing infants dating from the earliest moments of the Church’s history. People come to the full light of the Gospel of the Risen Lord over time but always with the support and indispensable guidance of the Church.

Many times, as Catholics we need to be reminded more than we need to be informed of the truth that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and that death is no longer the final word of human existence. We should not become discouraged that full understanding of the Resurrection of Christ does not come immediately to us. Besides the obligation to worship God on Sundays in the way that He desires to be worshipped, that is, the Mass, we are accountable to participate in Mass every Sunday to accompany each other in our respective journeys of development of the faith as members of the Church and we pray the Creed together in Catholic unity from which we are sent to live this Good News — that we are not made for death.

Today, we renew the promises of our Baptism because at our Baptism, Jesus Christ called us each by name to follow Him in the Way of the Cross. At our Baptism, we died with Christ so that on the Last Day we could rise with Him. At our Baptism, we were born again by water and the Holy Spirit so that we could be nourished every Sunday by the Most Holy Eucharist and live every day the life of the new creation, strengthened against temptation and sin, by grace through faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through His Gospel.

The Resurrection was staggering news then. It is staggering news now. It is always and everywhere Good News, and it is not news discoverable on the exclusive terms of human reason. We need God’s grace delivered through the ordinary means of the sacraments and our communal life as members of the Catholic Church to follow Saint Paul’s direction to the Colossians to “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”

The Eternal Word of God, who became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, suffered and died to redeem us from the grave and then rose victorious over sin and death to reveal to all the nations the truth of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation. We were made for perfect beatitude in the unbounded glory of Divine Love, to live eternally in the heart of the Most Holy Trinity, and what the human race lost in our rebellion against the Creator has been restored and surpassed by the obedience unto death, even death on a cross, of the Risen One whose name is above every other name, Jesus Christ the Lord. Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead!

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