Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter And The Desire to Be Near the Body of the Lord

It is almost One in the morning on Easter Sunday and I've just returned home from the Boston University Catholic Center post-Easter Vigil party, held in the apartment of some of our students. You might think it impossible to fit a hundred people into a room the size of a kitchen table, but Easter is the time of miracles. At the moment, I'm simultaneously wiped out and wound up. It was a magnificent few days. I am once again so impressed by the organization, commitment, and spiritual depth of our community.  I share below the general idea of my homily for the Easter Vigil. Since I didn't write it out, this is just a sketch.


At our Good Friday service last night, I was really moved as I watched all of you approaching the Crucifix and, one by one, kissing the wood of the Cross or kissing the feet of the Lord. I imagine that as you did so, you probably were trying to express some gratitude to Him, to thank Him for dying for you; to thank Him for loving you until the very end.  It was beautiful to watch as you each spent a personal moment showing some tenderness towards Him.  In making that gesture, we also felt how small it is in comparison to what He has done for us.

The scriptures we heard tonight remind us of all that God has done for us. He created a world for us! He gave us life! He called Abraham and established a holy people. He rescued that holy people from slavery. He loved them and called them again and again to love Him in return. God gives us everything and He asks so very little from us in return. Even when it seems like He is asking for a lot--like when He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son--even then, we see that in return, God gives us so much more. Not only did God restore Abraham's son to him, but He also made Abraham the father of our faith and the father of many nations.  God is never outdone in generosity.

In the Gospel tonight, St. Luke tells us about these women who did something relatively small. They woke up early in the morning. Why?  They wanted to anoint the body of the Lord. They felt His loss. They missed His face, His embrace, His voice . . . His presence. And so, they do the best that they can. They go to where His body is buried. There, they hope to anoint His body in order to slow down its decomposition. They want to keep His body for as long as they can. It's all that they have left of Him.  Anointing His body is their way of clinging to him for a little bit longer. It's one small gesture of gratitude and affection for all that He had done for them. He had fed them, taught them to pray, healed them. He had loved them. Now, they were driven by an intuition that His body was the place to go in order to remain somewhat near to Him.

It was because of this affection for Christ--this tenderness towards His body--that these women were the first to experience the dawn of the new creation. It was because of their desire to be near His body that the light of the new order began first to shine on them. 

This new day of the resurrection continues to shine down through the ages to this very moment. It was evident to me yesterday, as you all kissed the feet of crucified Jesus.  But it is also evident here tonight. In our front row are men and women who will be baptized, received into the Church, confirmed, and receive the Eucharist for the first time tonight.

Somewhere along the way, you were given an intuition to go and search for the body of the Lord. You want to be close to the Lord and so you come to His body, the Church. St. Paul tells us that the Church is the Body of Christ. These men and women desire to join the Body of Christ. Or, for those of them who are already baptized, they are seeking to become more firmly united to His Body.  For some of you, perhaps there were many obstacles along the way. Perhaps at times you felt like God was asking you for a lot.  But tonight, no matter what you offer to God, He will not be outdone in generosity. In return, He will give you the forgiveness of all of your sins, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and communion in His Body and Blood. Tonight, you will receive eternal life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the Eucharist as, "an antidote for death." I am so happy that I get to give to you tonight, the antidote for death!

Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call on Him while He is still near. Tonight, all of you come here because you wanted to be close to the Lord's Body. You are here late at night. You are at a LONG Mass. The Lord has given you the beautiful gift of faith. You want to be near His Body. When we love His body--both His mystical body, the Church and His Eucharistic Body--we are rewarded with far more than we could ever possibly comprehend. When we live our lives close to the Church and the Eucharist, God rewards us by giving us a share in His resurrection. We become partakers in the new creation.

During these past days, like the women in tonight's Gospel, we have all attempted to draw closer to the Lord. We've stayed with Him in prayer on Holy Thursday. We've kissed His crucified feet. We have come here tonight to be close to His Body. In return for these small acts of tenderness, He gives the forgiveness of sin, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the new life of grace, and a share in His resurrected life. We give the little that we can. He receives us and gives to us more than we can ever imagine. 

Yes, He is Risen. He is Risen, Indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Father Barnes for your words of wisdom and encouragement.