Sunday, April 15, 2012
Easter in Action: Easter 2
Our beautiful Easter celebration got off to a rocky start this year.
On Holy Saturday morning I walked into the church to find Amina, the very dedicated parishioner who looks after decorating the sanctuary, looking like a Canuck fan last Friday night.
When I asked what the matter was, she lamented that only one or two of the Easter lilies had opened up.
Somehow she was going to have to make the church look beautiful with only one decent-looking lily; all the others were as tightly closed as a bed of oysters.
But "God works for good in all things." First of all, Amina figured out how to work around her disappointment, and the church looked just wonderful.
Secondly, the lilies chose to open up just in time for Helen Minshull's funeral, making the sanctuary a glorious symbol of the resurrection for all who mourned her.
And finally, the near-miss with the flowers inspired my homily today. The fact that the church looks even more festive today than it did last Sunday makes a very important point: Easter is just the beginning.
A week after Easter, each of us should in one way or another have opened up in the light of Christ; we should be blooming with faith.
The liturgy today shows us Easter in action. Although Christ's rising from the dead is still front and center, all three readings show its impact. We see the difference the resurrection made in the lives of the disciples, and we're challenged to ask "What difference is it making in mine?'
In our first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, the members of the early Church community have become radically committed to one another, and to caring for the poor. The Apostles—those same men who wavered during Christ's Passion and who took some convincing after His resurrection—are now preaching "with great power."
And what are they preaching? The resurrection.
In our second reading, we see how faith in Christ brings two things: commitment and confidence. Those who believe obey the commandments: they are committed. And those who believe have a solid hope of victory: they are confident.
The power of faith is so great that commitment and confidence come fairly easily. The commandments "are not burdensome," St. John says. And echoing St. Paul, he calls us conquerors, people who do not fear even when the world is lined up against us.
In the Gospel today, St. John recounts the second appearance of Jesus after the resurrection. Again, we see Easter in action—it's only the evening of that first Easter, and already all kinds of things are changing for the disciples.
For one thing, Jesus brings peace. Twice he says "peace be with you," as if once wasn't enough for his frightened friends. But they take no convincing and rejoice right away—for could there be a greater or surer pledge of peace than the sight of the Risen Lord?
Then things get quite astonishing. The disciples haven't even caught their breath before Jesus puts them to work! Talk about Easter in action—immediately they are sent out on mission, and empowered with the Holy Spirit.
At least we've had a week to think about it.
So here's the big question: have we been thinking about it? Have we been asking what God wants us to do, in light of our faith in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead?
In simpler words, how have we decided to put Easter into action?
Obviously there are all kinds of answers to this question, including the witness we give with our lives. Some of you may have a very personal answer: perhaps you've decided to visit your evil step-sister in Montana, the one who always put you down but who is now old and sick. Perhaps you decided to drop the lawsuit against your ignorant neighbours, the ones who never returned your lawnmower.
But for many of us, the question involves giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The Father sent Him, and now he sends us; it's a fact of Christian life. We'll be hearing about our call to share the good news of Christ from now to Pentecost and beyond.
How will we do this?
Today's bulletin gives every single one of us concrete opportunities to put Easter into action.
For some, there are opportunities to share your faith. For others, there's an invitation to deepen it "so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" so that "you may have life in his name."
The number one faith opportunity announced in the bulletin is the next Alpha Course. As you know, we just finished an Alpha Course, and when members of the team proposed starting all over again I thought I was hearing things.
Actually, I was hearing things—I was hearing the voice of the Spirit speaking to parishioners who are now convinced that spreading the Gospel isn't an optional extra for Christians: it's at the very heart of who we are.
So here's a challenge. Will you invite someone to Alpha tomorrow night? That's about as concrete as challenges come. Invite them and bring them. And know why you're doing it: to give your testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, like the first disciples.
Your guest may be a family member who has stopped going to church, or a neighbour who has expressed some interest. It might be a non-Catholic spouse or friend.
If you just can't think of someone, or if someone turns you down, will you consider helping with the cooking and hosting of this next Alpha course? That too is Easter in action, and a testimony of faith.
Alpha is delightful—both the video presentations and the splendid meals were a huge hit—but it's not really a course for active Catholics. It's for those who need to start at the beginning. If you come, bring someone as the price of admission.
Having said that, there may be some folks in church today who really feel a need to return to the basics of Christian faith; you, of course, are most welcome.
For others, the bulletin offers faith formation for almost every age group. There are notices about the Junior Youth Group for elementary school students, and about tonight's "Life Night" for high schoolers. Both these groups are energetic evenings of faith and friendship, with no small amount of fun.
Tonight Life Teen will take a look at the Holy Spirit in the Church; it follows the five o'clock Mass and includes dinner. Any secondary school student is warmly welcome.
Our group for young adult men also includes dinner, and has its next meeting a week from Thursday. Our guest speaker is the Archbishop of Ottawa, the scripture scholar Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, who will be joined for the evening by our own Archbishop Miller.
The young women's group is studying the role of women in the Church, and its next meeting is a week from Monday. Once again, all the information you need is in the bulletin, which also talks about stewardship, which is nothing more or less than Easter in action 365 days of the year.
Prayer, of course, is a response to the risen Lord, and the bulletin announces our annual "Forty Hours Devotion," the solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for three full days at the end of the month.
There's more still in the bulletin about letting Easter change how we live—joining the Catholic Women's League is a response in faith, as is taking part in the March for Life next month.
We have an abundance of opportunities to put Easter in action… and a real shortage of excuses for missing out.