Easter Sunday 2016 Homily

Easter Sunday

                                                                                                                                                March 27th, 2016


Last Thursday, the singer Bruce Springsteen was at Seattle’s Key Arena in concert.  Yesterday morning, I read coverage on that concert in the Seattle Times.  The article said that Springsteen “gave the impression he didn’t want the night to stop” and between sets “talked about mortality and a feeling of a clock ticking.”

And Springsteen reflected, saying to the thousands gathered there:

You walk alongside of your mortality to do your work, to raise your family, and to try to do something good.

To emphasize his point, he repeated the final line one more time:  “To do something good.”

Daily and much of the time we walk alongside our mortality with unawareness.  As we grow older or when faced with the sudden and senseless tragedy we saw unraveling in Brussels the other day we become painfully aware of this mortal nature we share, and life’s impermanence.  When we pause and   take it all to heart we realize that we have only so much time here.

 In a retreat I attended years ago, Father John Dunne said that there are two basic ways we approach our notion of time:  either we view time as running out, like sand in an hour glass or a “clock ticking”.  Or we view it as an adventure, a journey that is going somewhere.

I’m reminded of an image used by the Jewish Dutch writer Etty Hillesum.  Hillesum  who died tragically at Auschwitz—the Nazi death camp—wrote  words to a friend that I found insightful and  discovered in the book, “Letters from Westerbork”: 

When a spider spins its web, does it not cast the main threads ahead of itself, and then follow along them from behind?  The main path of my life stretches like a long journey before me and already reaches into another world.

  To see life and the time allotted me as a journey is what Jesus espouses in the Gospels.  Only this approach makes any sense when confronted with the desires and longings we carry within ourselves; like “seeds from other worlds” as the monk Zossima puts it in “The Brothers Karamazov”.

We know from experience that our desires and longings surpass the limits this life imposes and   why we find ourselves restless and sometimes not quite at home here.

There is within us a vast and timeless need to love and be loved in return; to “try to do something good” as Springsteen put it. Basically, this is the point of the moral life and essence of the Gospel.

In the Resurrection, there is revealed for anyone with the eyes of faith the “why” of life; the “why” of love.  Jesus hints at this “why” in words spoken to the Twelve the night before his death:

I go and prepare a place for you.  I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  (John 14:1-6)

In the Resurrection, something unprecedented happened; a breakthrough occurred when, mysteriously, the molecular breakdown of death was reversed. 

St. Paul put it this way:  “Death no longer has any hold on us.”   Paul wrote those words with conviction.   He believed that life was a journey that stretched before us; that already reached into another world.  When we live from that perspective and conviction, it liberates.  Such conviction happens when we begin to live in the present, or better yet live in the presence of the One ever in our midst whose love frees us from death’s hold.

This notion of time running out, of a “clock ticking” is overcome for anyone willing to believe and to see the ‘something more’ of life.  We were created for ‘something more’; what life hints at yet whose fulfillment lies beyond.    We are made to do something good with the time that is ours.   The goodness we are and that we live prevails, remains; it lives on.

Sometimes we sense it and even touch it here and now.

On my recent retreat, I read “Rena’s Promise”; a true story about siblings Rena and Danka who miraculously survive the Nazi camp at Birkenau.  At one point, Rena’s lost touch with her parents, not knowing their fate.  She writes:

The fences at Birkenau stretch before me.  I do not get close enough to get shot, but I stand there staring out at the open spaces of my homeland…

Sometimes I have serious doubts that they’re alive, but sometimes I feel as if there’s a physical presence next to me.  I can smell her.  I can feel her touch.  I cannot see Mama but I know she’s near.

I can feel her touch…I know she’s near.

The disciples fenced in by grief and doubt that first Easter while the darkness gave way to the light arrived at a similar, yet more tangible and profound experience.  At first, they see nothing other than an empty tomb and don’t understand the “why” of it all.  Much of life is that way, is it not?

Yet, the “other disciple” “saw and believed” despite the emptiness.  He saw the burial cloths there and noticed the strangeness, perhaps:  that there was a naked man on the loose.  Something mysterious was on the loose to be sure.  Something happened that day that changed them for good.  The One they loved was bound no longer nor shrouded by death.

I like to imagine that this “other disciple” remembered what Jesus said; that he felt the touch and nearness of Christ’s words as they came to life within him.  It was then he believed.

The Resurrection is a timeless event that wants to take hold of us so that we begin to see the “why” of life; the “why” of love; that it’s all much more than the experience of walking alongside our own mortality, with “a clock ticking.”  It must be much more than that if life is to have any meaning. 

Springsteen was correct in that the time that remains we ought to try and do something good because the good we do is timeless, immortal and of God.    It stretches ahead of us.

 How do we perceive life:  like an hour glass; a clock ticking?  Or do we see it as a journey before us,   reaching into another world?   

Dorothy Day was made to ponder that question; and she writes:

When my own mother was dying, she asked me quietly and soberly, “What about a future life?”  I could only point to the flowers which surrounded her.  It was in the fall and there were giant chrysanthemums filling the tables in her room.  It was like a promise from God, and God keeps his promises.  I pointed to the trees outside, stripped of their leaves, looking dead to the eye from that distance, but there had recently been a blaze of glory in the color of the maples; another sign of a promise.  (pp. 10-11)

This Easter Day and beyond, let us “try to do something good” as Springsteen advises.  As followers of Jesus, the One who is “yesterday, today and forever”, may we learn to see the ‘something more’ of life:  its transcendent nature with its promise, adventure and hope.

Father Tim Clark, Pastor

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