Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Victory of Christ: An Easter Homily

Recently a friend of mine drew my attention to a sculpture by Michelangelo entitled, "The Risen Christ."  The statue depicts a muscular Christ as almost a warrior returning victorious from the field of battle. In his hands, he holds a Cross, but its size is diminutive compared to the figure of Christ. It's as though the power of sin and death is being mocked by the power and strength of the Risen Lord. "Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?" (1Cor 15:55)

I have to admit that I'm a little bit disappointed on Easter Sunday morning that we don't encounter that Christ. I wake up on Easter and want to see the warrior Christ standing victorious at the tomb with his heel on the throat of Satan.  Instead, we get Mary Magdalen who goes to the tomb while it is still dark. She sees the stone rolled away and she runs to the apostles.  Then, the apostles run to the tomb and find it empty. We are told that the apostle John arrives first, but he waits for Peter. Once Peter arrives and goes in, John goes in. And we are told that somehow, from what he saw, John came to believe. We all come to Easter Mass though and want to hear something bigger, better, and grander. We want to see Jesus, I think. We want to see the victorious Christ. But people enter into the Victory of Christ through Faith. And Faith comes, not from seeing, but from hearing. The mission of the Church is to announce the Gospel. We encounter the Victory of Christ through the testimony of others.

One of the reasons that I am grateful to be a priest on campus is because the community here knows how to draw others into the Victory of Christ. Over the past few weeks, I've encountered some very difficult situations, people suffering in some profound ways--spiritually, morally, physically etc. In those moments, the individual can feel as though the Cross dominates their entire existence; that pain, suffering, sin, evil and death are their entire horizon. It can be daunting and discouraging. But the Catholic community here continuously reaches out to others, testifying to Christ.

On Holy Thursday, scores of students processed with the Eucharist down Comm Ave giving witness to the world that Christ is with us. Afterwards, seventy-five of those students walked to the Cathedral miles away in order to pray Night Prayer with Cardinal Sean O'Malley. (Truth to be told, I drove). On Good Friday, students acted out the Stations of the Cross on Marsh Plaza, proclaiming Christ's love to all who passed by. On Holy Saturday, at the Easter Vigil, three young people were baptized and several others were brought into full communion with the Church! How did they get to that point? They were accompanied by members of this community. 

Over the past couple of weeks, I'd estimate that approximately 200 young people came to Confession at BU. The community here organized opportunities for people to confess, they encouraged others to receive the Sacrament, and led them. They prayed for those going to Confession, calmed their fears, and probably said, "If you're nervous, you can go to one of the other priests. You don't have to go to Fr. Barnes!" 

So often, people carry the weight of sin around with them because they are convinced that their sin is so big. Sometimes they carry it around for decades. Then, they finally come to confession. And to their shock, the priest doesn't have a heart attack and the roof of the church doesn't cave in. In fact, in an instant, that heavy weight that they have lugged around forever becomes like nothing. It shrinks in the mercy of Christ. That Cross becomes puny in the Victory of Christ. This is Easter.

This morning, we all want to see the Victorious Christ. We want to see Him destroying sin and death. We have seen Him. We have seen Him through Faith. We have seen His Victory through the life of His Church. I've seen the Victory of Christ over these past few weeks through the life of this community. Christ has been using this community to draw others to the Baptismal Font where the old man has been put to death and the new man--Christ Jesus--has come to live in them. This community has been drawing others to Confession where the terrible weight of sin is obliterated by Christ's Victory. This community has been drawing others to Christ so that they too experience true freedom and true life. 

On Easter Sunday morning, we do not see Christ in the Gospel. And yet, we do see Him. We see Him by Faith. We see Him in Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John. We see Him in the Church.  During these days many lives have been touched by the missionary zeal and love of this community. So many people were carrying the weight of sin and suffering. And then, through your witness and your love, they experienced the freedom and joy of Christ's victory. They saw their heavy burdens swallowed up in the Risen Life of Christ. We who have lived these days together can say with Easter joy and with Easter Faith: He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed.

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