Acts of the Apostles 10:34, 37–43; Colossians 3:1–4; John 20:1–9
The message of Easter is that Jesus is alive and risen and at work in our lives.
It was a hot summer afternoon. The famous Hollywood film director Cecil B. DeMille was drifting in a canoe on a lake in Maine, reading a book. He looked away from the book momentarily, down to the lake. There a bunch of water beetles were at play.
Suddenly one of the beetles began to crawl up the side of the canoe. When it got halfway up, it attached the talons of its legs to the wooden side of the canoe and died.
DeMille watched for a minute; then he turned back to his book. About three hours later, DeMille looked down at the dead beetle again. What he saw amazed him.
The beetle had dried up, and its back was starting to crack open. As he watched, something began to emerge from the opening: first a moist head, then wings. It was a beautiful dragonfly.
DeMille sat there in awe. Then the dragonfly began to move its wings. It hovered gracefully over the water where the other beetles were at play. But they didn’t recognize the dragonfly. They didn’t realize that it was the same beetle they had played with three hours earlier.
DeMille took his finger and nudged the dried-out shell of the beetle. It was like an empty tomb.
We all recognize the parallel between the water beetle and Jesus.
Jesus died nailed to a cross. The water beetle died fastened to the canoe.
Jesus underwent an amazing transformation three days after his death.
The water beetle went through a similar change three hours after its death. Jesus wasn’t recognized by those who had been with him three days earlier. The beetle wasn’t recognized by those that had been with it three hours earlier. The risen body of Jesus had new powers to move about. The beetle could now fly and no longer had to crawl about.
The story of the water beetle may help us understand better what happened to Jesus on Easter morning.
The body of Jesus that rose on Easter morning was totally different from the body of Jesus that was buried on Good Friday afternoon.
It was not a resuscitated body, that is, a body restored to its original life—like Lazarus, or the son of the widow of Naim, or the daughter of Jairus.
Rather, it was a body that had taken a quantum leap forward
into an infinitely higher life. It was a glorified body. It was
totally living and totally life-giving.
Paul compares the body before resurrection to a seed, and the body after resurrection to the plant that emerges from that seed. He says in his First Letter to the Corinthians:
“[w]hat you plant is a bare seed, . . .
not the full-bodied plant. . . .
When the body is buried, it is mortal;
when raised, it will be immortal.
When buried, it is ugly and weak;
when raised, it will be beautiful and strong.
When buried, it is a physical body;
when raised, it will be a spiritual body,” 1 Corinthians 15:37, 42–44
In the same letter Paul says that we will share in the resurrection of Jesus. He writes:
“[t]he truth is that Christ has been raised from death,
as the guarantee that those who sleep in death will also be raised. For just as death came by means of a man, in the same way the rising from death comes by means of a man. For just as all people die because of their union with Adam, in the same way all will be raised to life because of their union with Christ. . . .
“Just as we wear the likeness of the man made of earth,
so we will wear the likeness of the Man from heaven.”
1 Corinthians 15:20–22, 49
But Paul tells us something more. He tells us that we don’t have to wait until we die to share in the risen life and the risen power of Jesus. We can do it right now. All wee have to do is open our hearts to him.
Let me illustrate with a true story.
Roger Bolduc was a victim of cancer. Until he died in 1977,
he never ceased to believe that his illness was a precious gift from God.
Shortly before his death he wrote:
“Many things upon which I placed importance in the past
seem so trivial now, they just don’t seem to matter
anymore. . . .
“Time has become precious. God has become so real. . . .
I can feel his power—it’s always there.
I feel that God has answered my prayers.”
Bolduc concluded by saying that he always knew God loved him, but he had no idea God loved him so much.
This is a beautiful example of the power of the risen Jesus
at work in someone’s life today. Roger Bolduc literally died and rose spiritually. And so we don’t have to wait until we die
to share in the risen life and risen power of Jesus.
We can share in it right now, at this moment.
Each time we love again after having our love rejected,
we share in the power of the resurrection.
Each time we trust again after having our trust betrayed,
we share in the resurrection.
Each time we fail and try again, we share in the resurrection.
Each time we hope again after having our hope smashed into pieces, we share in the resurrection.
Each time we pick up the pieces, wipe our tears, face the sun, and start again, we share in the power of the resurrection.
The message of Easter is that nothing can destroy us anymore—not pain, not sin, not rejection, not death.
The message of Easter is that Christ has conquered all,
and that we too can conquer all, if we put our faith in him.
That’s what the resurrection is all about.
That’s what we celebrate this morning.
It’s the good news that every Good Friday now has an Easter Sunday.
It’s the good news that we don’t have to wait until death to share in the resurrection. We can begin to do it right now,
in this life, at this moment, in this Mass.
All we have to do is open our hearts to the grace that Jesus won for us on the first Easter Sunday, nearly 2,000 years ago.
Acts of the Apostles 10:34, 37–43; Colossians 3:1–4; John 20:1–9
It Began in a Tomb
Jesus wants to re-create us.
An inmate in a Chicago prison was watching a television talk show. The show’s guest was G. Gordon Liddy. He was one of the men convicted in the Watergate scandal,
which forced Richard Nixon to resign the presidency.
The topic of the show was religion. At one point the host turned to Liddy and said, “How can you be so certain
God created you?’’
Liddy smiled and replied, “No one else but God would have dared to do it. No one else but God would have had the nerve to create someone like me.’’
The audience howled with laughter. So did the talk show host.
And so did the inmate in the Chicago prison.
When the show ended, the inmate laid down on his prison cot
and began to think to himself:
Why did God create me? Why did God create someone
who would end up behind prison bars?
Why did God create someone who would die to goodness and love and be buried in a tomb of evil and hate in a prison cell?
It was then that a surprising thought entered the inmate’s mind. The greatest event in history began in a tomb—a tomb just as secure and guarded as his prison cell. That event, of course, was the resurrection of Jesus.
And the reason it is history’s greatest event is because of the transformation it brought about in Jesus.
Jesus was no longer buried in a tomb. He was now raised from the dead.
And because Jesus was raised to new life, the world was also raised to new life. For the new life that Jesus received also empowered him to communicate it to others.
It was then that a second surprising thought entered the prisoner’s mind.
What happened to Jesus in the tomb in Jerusalem could happen to him in his tomb in Chicago. Because of Jesus’
new life and power, he too could be reborn. He too could be
re-created. He too could rise from the dead.
At that moment it dawned on him what Easter is really all about.
It’s about being reborn.
It’s about be re-created.
It’s about rising from the dead.
It’s about becoming a new person.
At that moment what happened to Jesus in the tomb
happened to the prisoner in his tomb.
He was reborn.
He was re-created.
He rose from the dead.
He became a new person.
And this brings us to all of us in this church this morning.
What happened to the inmate in the Chicago prison is what God wants to happen to us in this church this morning.
God wants to re-create us.
For all of us in this church find ourselves buried in some tomb, as the prisoner was.
It may be a tomb of resentment because of some hurt received from someone.
It may be a tomb of fear about the future and what it holds for us.
It may be a tomb of confusion about our faith and how to deal with it.
Or it may be a tomb of despair about some difficult situation in our lives and how to handle it.
And that’s where Easter comes in.
For just as Jesus used his Easter power to raise the Chicago prisoner from his tomb, so he wants to do the same for us.
He wants to raise us from our tomb.
This is the good news of Easter. This is the good news
we celebrate this morning in this church.
It’s the good news that Jesus extends an Easter invitation to each one of us.
He invites us to open our hearts to his new Easter power.
He invites us to let him do for us what he did for the prisoner in Chicago.
Jesus wants to give us the power to rise from tombs of darkness after our hope has been dashed to pieces.
He wants to give us the power to rise from tombs of discouragement after our love has been rejected.
He wants to give us the power to rise from tombs of doubt
after our faith has been shaken. This is the good news of Easter.
It’s the good news that Jesus rose from his tomb and wants to help us rise from our tomb as well.
It’s the good news that Jesus rose from his tomb
and wants to give us the power to rise from our tomb also.
It’s the good news that no tomb can hold us anymore—not the tomb of despair,
not the tomb of discouragement,
not the tomb of doubt,
not even the tomb of death.
This is what Easter is about.
It’s about rebirth.
It’s about re-creation.
It’s about opening our hearts to Jesus to let him do for us what he did for the prisoner in Chicago.
This is what Easter is about.
This is what we celebrate in this church at this Easter liturgy
on this beautiful day.
Acts of the Apostles 10:34a, 37–43; Colossians 3:1–4; John 20:1–9
Meaning of Easter
I have called you by name. Arise and be re-created!
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark,
Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. John 20:1
The movie It’s a Wonderful Life has become a kind of Christmas classic. The movie was inspired by a parable by author Philip Van Doren Stern. He had printed the story and sent it out as a Christmas card to all his friends.
The movie version revolves around a man named George Bailey. In his youth, he dreamed of leaving the small town of Bedford Falls, Ohio, and traveling to exciting far-off places.
But as he grew to manhood, one thing after another kept him
from realizing this dream.
Finally, the responsibility of keeping the family business going
fell on his shoulders. His fate was sealed; his dreams ended.
And so he began the boring routine of plodding along day after day, doing his duty—and helping people wherever he could. To him, his life seemed a waste of time and talent—a total failure. He might just as well not have been born.
And so one winter night, he drank a bit too much and wobbled to a bridge outside of town. He stood there totally depressed. His depression grew to the point that he considered jumping off the bridge.
Just then he a noticed a star in the sky glowing brighter and brighter. And as it grew closer and closer it turned out to be an angel, with the unlikely name of Clarence.
Clarence’s assignment was to show George that far from being a failure, in God’s eyes, his life was a huge success.
He shows George how his kindness and his goodness to the people of Bedford Falls had changed the lives of many people in a most beautiful way.
Of course, George is utterly amazed and surprised by what he sees. He had no idea of all the good he had done and of what a difference he had made in so many people’s lives.
At this point, you are probably asking, What does this lovely Christmas story have to do with Easter? I think it has everything to do with it. Let me explain.
We tend to forget that Jesus was both divine and human.
We tend to forget that Jesus was like us in all things but sin.
We tend to forget that he got discouraged, just as George did and just as we do.
For example, when Jesus told the people he would give them his body and blood to eat and drink, many of them stopped listening to him and walked away in disgust.
At that point, he turned to his close disciples and said,
“And you—would you also like to leave?” John 6:67
Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to Peter, James, and John: “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me.” Mark 14:34
Finally, an hour later, when a mob took him prisoner,
these same three closest friends fled and left him to face the mob totally alone.
Like George Bailey, the human side of Jesus must have wondered if something had gone terribly wrong. Had he actually failed in the mission his Father had given him?
Small wonder, he cried out on the cross: “My God, my God,
why did you abandon me?” Matthew 27:46
Then three days later, something marvelous happened:
Jesus awoke to a transformed life.
His time on earth was not a failure. It was a success: the most glorious success anyone could ever dream or hope for. It was a life that would change the whole course of human history.
It would become the source of hope and courage and grace to billions of people yet unborn.
This brings us to each one of us in this church on this day of days. Like George Bailey, many of us began lives filled with dreams—and, perhaps, even dreams of doing great things for God.
But as the years faded, one after the other, so did our dreams.
All of us at one time or another have experienced moments of anguish, as George Bailey and Jesus himself did.
All of us at one time or another have wondered if we had failed at the most important thing we could fail at—being the kind of person God created us to be.
And that brings us to the message of Easter.
It is the message that Jesus not only was raised to new life and power, but also wants to share this new life and power with
He wants to do for us what the angel did for George Bailey.
He wants to show us that we have done many beautiful things in our life, just as George Bailey did—things we have forgotten about or didn’t even realize we did.
And one of those things is being here on this Easter morning.
We are here because Jesus has touched our heart with his grace and brought us here.
We are here because Jesus wants to give us a share in his own life and power.
He wants to give us the power to rise from our tombs of doubt, depression, and discouragement.
He wants to free us by his saving power so that no tomb can hold us anymore—no tomb of sin, no tomb of depression,
no tomb of discouragement, not even the dark tomb of death.
This is why Jesus called each one of us here this morning.
This is what Easter is all about.
It’s about being called by Jesus, who wants to do for us what his Father did for him.
And so, as we return to the altar to celebrate the Eucharist together, let us thank Jesus as we have never thanked him before.
Above all, let us share our joy and gratitude with all we meet, so that they, too, may open their hearts that Jesus might do for them what he has done for us.