The Morning Death Died
Homily for Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of the Lord
Preached on April 4, 2010 at Holy Spirit Parish/The Newman Center at the University of Kentucky, Lexington KY
Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9
Note: This homily is both inspired by and modeled after the Christmas Homily of Fr. Horacio de la Costa, SJ.
Easter is when we celebrate the inexplicable; it is the festival of surprise.
This is the morning, Chrysostom says, “when hell grasped a corpse and met God; when hell seized earth and encountered Heaven; when hell took what it saw and was overcome by what it could not see” (cf. Paschal Homily by St. John Chrysostom).
This is the morning when Death died, when despair lost to hope, when the cries of mourning gave way to the song of Easter morn.
Although we have stood here, year after year, as our parents before us, the wonder has not faded, nor will it ever fade: the wonder of that moment when we bend down to enter the tomb and, entering, find the shroud neatly folded and the corpse of the Crucified gone (cf. Jn. 20:5-9).
Sr. Diane Bergant has said it for us all: “history no longer makes sense” (cf. Preaching the New Lectionary: Year C by Diane Bergant, CSA, p. 168). The One singled out to be condemned has been set apart to be the Judge of all (cf. Acts 10:42). The tree of death is the tree of life. The Dead is Risen. Humble humanity has been given a Heaven’s share by humbled Divinity. “History has been broken open, and now we really do not know what to expect” (Bergant, p. 168) except that from this morning on, it is the Risen Christ who calls all the shots. From this morning on, we can taunt death: “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55) Christ has changed the course of human history and from this morning on we really do not know what to expect.
We were promised a Savior but never dreamed that God Himself would come and save us. We know that He loved us, but we never dared to think that He loved us so much as to die for us on the cross. We were promised a land but never thought that He was preparing His own Heaven for our home.
“But that is the way God gives. His gifts are never quite what we expect, but always something better than we hoped for. We can only dream of things too good to be true; God has a habit of giving things too true to be false” (cf. Christmas Homily by Fr. Horacio de la Costa, SJ). That is why our faith is a faith in the inexplicable, a religion of surprise.
Now, more than ever, living in times so troubled and ridden with scandal, facing a future so uncertain, we need such faith. We need it for ourselves and we need to give it to others.
We must remind the world that if a quiet earth-shattering Easter comes in the spring, it is that there may be a rousing earth-shaking Pentecost in the summer and an Ordinary Time that is evergreen.