(Easter Homily at the House of Philosophy)
I always find difficult to preach in Easter season for the Gospel texts about the risen Lord repeat many times and the details are not many. Moreover, most of them are not convincing evidences. Let’s take a look at today’s Gospel. Mary of Magdala went to the tomb and found it empty. Immediately, the idea that somebody had taken the body away came up in her mind and she came running to Peter and John with the hope that they could find out the body. And when the two disciples came to the tomb, what did they find? Only the clothes and one of them was rolled up. That’s all. Can they become convincing evidence? I don’t think so.If you bring this evidence to the court and try to convince them the somebody in the tomb is alive now, they won’t believe you! So how? Is it hopeless? And your faith and our preaching are empty as St. Paul says in 1Cr 15,14? Hold on. Let’s look at the two decuples in today’s Gospel. I’m telling you that they’re the key to find out the truth.
First of all, we look at John, the beloved of Jesus. The Gospel tells us that “He saw and believed”. What did he see? Just what Mary and Peter did. An empty tomb and some clothes. But he believed. Why?
Dear brethren in Christ, with belief, we don’t always need convincing evidence, we just believe. We can’t explain but we can feel it by our hearts as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry says “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” So in the bottom of our hearts, we believe that the Lord has risen and at the end of the world, we will be risen with Him. We can’t always understand well our faith. We just feel that God love us and we believe in Him.
One building caught fire and the smoke was covering the place. There was a voice calling for help at the second story. One of the men standing outside the building recognized that it was his boy calling. He said loudly “Jump down, I will catch you!” The boy replied “but I can’t see you”. The man said “but I can see you, jump!” The boy jumped through the dark smoke toward his father’s voice. He was saved by his father.
The son in above story was in the dark and he didn’t know what is down there but trusted in his father for he knew that his father loved him.
At the tomb, John didn’t see the Lord but he believed in Him and what he had said before for he knew that the Lord loves him and what He had said would be correct.
We don’t see the risen Lord by our flesh eyes but by our hearts and we believe in Him for we know that He loves us. The faithful in remotest parishes don’t know much about their risen Lord, but if somebody asks them to die for Him they will be ready anytime.
Now let’s look at Peter. It seems not to have anything to say about Peter for we’re not sure if he believed or not at that moment. But let me tell you a story then we come back to him and understand him.
A dialogue between a recent convert and an unbelieving friend:
“So you have been converted to Christ?”
“Then you must know a great deal about him. Tell me: what country was he born in?”
“I don’t know.”
“What was his age when he died?”
“I don’t know.”
“How many sermons did he preach?”
“I don’t know.”
“You certainly know very little for a man who claims to be converted to Christ.’”
“You are right. I am ashamed at how little I know about him. But this much I know:
Three years ago I was a drunkard. I was in debt. My family was falling apart. My wife and children would dread my coming home each day. Now I have given up drink; we are out of debt; ours is a happy home. All this Christ has done. This much I know of him!”
To really know. That is, to be transformed by what one knows.
What about Peter? What happened with him? We can see some days before he was afraid of a maidservant, he denied his Master, Jesus three times. But in the first reading, we can see he is very brave preaching to gentile. It is unbelievable that a fisherman can become a good preacher like that. He knows about all the prophets and is talking about them. In addition, he and other Apostles were persecuted for the one he denied. That much we know about him and I think it’s enough for us.
So to really know Jesus Christ is to be transformed as St. John Chrysostom says in his Easter message: Those who were formerly living in the shame of sin are now living in confidence and in justice.
‘They are not only free, but saints
Not only saints, but just men
Not only just men, but sons
Not only sons, but heirs
Not only heirs, but brothers of Christ
Not only brothers of Christ, but his co-heirs
Not only his co-heirs, but his members
Not only his members, but temples
Not only temples, but instruments of the Holy Spirit.”