Saint Peter the Apostle Parish Naples, FL
Acts 10, 34-43 Psalm 118 Colossians 3, 1-4 Mark 16, 1-7
There is an important way to consider what we celebrate today that not many of us have taken up. I know that only recently this thought has worked its way into my thinking and believing. I suspect that those first companions of Jesus had to allow time to sort this out as well in order to see and believe. We learn quickly in life that what you see is not always what you get. It always depends on how you see and what you are looking for. On that first day of the week, they did not see with anything but sadness and fear, grief and disappointment. So what they got was an empty tomb that may have been robbed. What they were looking for was Jesus of Nazareth, a carpenter’s son, a rabbi/teacher who had stirred their hopes of a Messiah who would reign with glory and restore Israel to its past power.
Had they not been motivated by fear, grief, and disappointment, they might have seen a mighty act of God. There is a clue to that in the text, but you have to read critically to pick it up. By the time Mark’s Gospel settled into a written text, the fear, grief, and disappointment was gone, and what was finally described is written in what grammar calls: the “Passive voice”. It says, “The stone was rolled back.” It does not say who did it. There is no name which leads us to suspect that respect for the name of God caused this detail to be recorded in the Passive voice. They could not say “God.” In other words, this is an act of God. What believers see is not an empty tomb. Believers see an act of God: Divine Revelation.
Through the whole life of Jesus Christ Divine Revelation has been in progress. From the moment it all began with the Annunciation, the nature, the being, the presence of God and the will of God has been unfolding for those who are ready to see it. For those God was present and at work. For those who were looking for something else, perhaps for their own gain or power, there was nothing to see. If we were to choose a word inadequate as one word could be to summarize or describe what has then been revealed, I think it would have to be LIFE, which might be the best and most clear sign of God’s presence. When that presence goes into action, when life is at its best and highest, it is unconditional LOVE.
The whole idea is so immense and so profound that our human minds have to carve it up into smaller pieces to grasp. So we make animal life, plant life, and human life which is all very fine as long as we keep seeing the creator in the beauty of that life. “What you see is what you get”. When it comes to human life unfortunately we do the same thing. There is life before birth, adult life, and life after death for those willing to take a leap of faith. Perhaps there is a better way to look at life which is what Easter can become for us.
Instead of thinking today about “life after death”, it might be better think about “life through death” not only for Jesus Christ, but for us all. At the Incarnation God chose the best of God’s creation to share divine life. God did not choose animals, plants, fish, or stars. God chose the last of creation to share God’s life. In Jesus Christ God reveals the secret of life. God reveals what makes life worth living (so to speak), so precious, so full, and so creative and beautiful: Love. What we celebrate today and what draws us together is Life, Divine Life, not just in Jesus Christ, but in everyone who lives and loves. This room, simple as it is, worn with the feet of the faithful for 40 years in this parish is full of life today and full of love. What we proclaim with our song, our presence, and prayers is that nothing can destroy life because it is of God, and as long as we love nothing can keep us down or hold us captive: not hatred, not disappointment, not betrayal, not even death.
We tell the stories of those first disciples during these days because they are clearly our own. They doubted, they denied, they ran, they hid, and they got the message wrong over and over again thinking it was about them and their lives as though they could separate their life from God’s life. Finally, after seeing and believing that life goes on even through death, they got it. After discovering that in spite of all their failures God still loved them, they grasped the reality that their very lives were a share in all that God is. With that realization, they changed and everything else changed. God continues through them to forgive, to heal, to hold up and lift up those who are bowed down. God continues to call back to life those who are entombed in hatred or racism, violence and revenge. What it really means is that our lives have purpose and meaning, we have a mission and a reason for awakening every day to the opportunities to be God’s presence for those in darkness.
Life through death is the promise we celebrate today because of the witness of the Risen Christ. We can, we shall, we are full participants in his life, not just after death, but through it, within it, and even before it. What Christ is, we shall be when love, heals what is broken in us and awakens us to the dawn of this day. Then others will get what they see in us, life and love.
On behalf of your pastor, Father G, Father Pedro, Father Benjamin, the five deacons who serve this parish, and all the staff and volunteers, I extend to you our great affection and sincere hope that you will live your lives in Christ, through death and every challenge, with hope and joy that brings us all peace. For this is the day the Lord has made!