Sunday, April 16, 2017

What will you live for? (Easter homily)

All over the world, Catholics and other Christians 
are marking this night, this day, the day that the Lord has made. 
The day Jesus came back from the dead, 
conquering sin and defeating death, 
and opening the path for us to heaven. 
That is why Alleluia belongs to this day: praise the Lord! 
This is the day of victory!

But what victory, exactly? What is this triumph? 
Are we claiming that we will not die? We know that we will. 
Our victory is that we know what lies ahead for us: 
not a grave, but heaven!

And what do we mean by this defeat of sin? 
I still struggle with sin. I’m guessing you do, too. 

But we have seen God weigh into the battle – for us and with us. 
All our sins have been nailed to the cross – 
and when Jesus died on that cross, 
so did our sins and all our condemnation! 

So remember: when you go to confession, and the priest gives you absolution, 
all that power of Jesus’ blood is poured out for you.
Never doubt, never waver: all your sins are forgiven forever: 
Gone, gone, gone!

No one else can take away sin but Jesus. 
As we say at each Mass: 
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. 
This is that day!
Not everyone celebrates this victory tonight. 
Lots of people in our world either do not know what Jesus did, 
or they do not care. They do not believe. 
Many in our own country have only a passing awareness. 

The story of who Jesus is and what he did 
has become a steady, background buzz in their ears. 
Perhaps they were raised as Christians, but they have turned away, 
or tuned out. Maybe someone hurt them.
They may take more notice of the wrongs of Christians, 
And the saving work of Christ is a little distant.  
Some just sort of drifted, and haven’t found their way back.

What can we say?

Each of us must choose what we will believe; 
what we will give our life for. 
Do not think you can stand off to one side, and stay out of it. 
Not choosing is to choose. 

Lots of people live for enjoyment, for fulfillment, for pleasure. 
This sounds worse than it is. 
God created us, and pleasure, 
a desire for the new and exciting, is built into us. 
But these are blessings of a good life; 
they aren’t enough to be the focus of life. 

There comes a point when we realize: 
I can live for me, or I can live for others. 
Those who choose self, who live for themselves, 
that’s all they have in the end: themselves, and nothing else.

Many people give themselves to their careers, to sports, to causes. 
Again, nothing wrong with this; indeed, there’s a lot to admire.
Still, it’s not enough. All these things can and will fail us.
Men and women around the world give themselves for their families. 
Is this not a worthy thing? Certainly it is. 
Or for their country? Do we not admire this? 
With all our hearts, we do!

But again, for what purpose? 
In loving our country, or loving our family, what do we want for them? 
Do I simply want a United States of America to exist, 
without having any sort of idea of what my country will BE? 

If I sustain and protect my family, is it for any purpose? 
What do I teach my sons and daughters? Does this matter? 
Just as I must discover some purpose for my own life, 
and seek it with all my body and soul, 
is this not what I want for my children as well?

Shall I follow Mohammed? But Mohammed is not God, who became man; 
Mohammed did not die for me. 
He may have some things to teach me, but he did not rise from the dead.

Shall I seek out Buddha? Buddha, too, is not God. 
Buddha teaches that peace is found on the path of negation. 
Empty, empty, ever emptier, until there is no desire, 
no need, nothing at all.

But Jesus says, this Creation is very good, even if it is broken. 
He came, not to escape this Creation, but to redeem it. 
”I came,” he said, “that they might have life, and have it to the full.”

Brothers and sisters, we have completed our time of penance. 
You and I have faced the reality of our own sinfulness 
and, even more than that, our own radical dependence. 
You and I cannot live a day, not an hour, without God’s help and grace. 

We are not so foolish as to think that our share of the battle is over; 
but we have seen the Captain of our Salvation triumph, 
so we know what lies ahead! The outcome is certain; the battle is won! 
We have been forgiven, and we can dare to be generous in forgiving! 

This is our victory, this is what Jesus has won for us. 
This is why we sing victory tonight; this is why we celebrate. 
Jesus has risen! Jesus has conquered! We are free!

So I put the question to you, the question everyone faces: 
what will you live for? What will you fight for? 
What will you give your life for?

Be not too quick to answer. In Egypt, just a week ago, 
those who claimed Christ paid with their lives. 
This is happening, almost daily, in Syria, in North Korea, 
in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, 
in Africa, and many other places around the world.

In our country, your answer may cost you a friendship; 
it may cost you a promotion. 
It may bring you derision and embarrassment. 
Being faithful to Christ has cost others 
their jobs and their businesses; so it may be for us.

The question is before you. We can postpone it, but never escape it. 
We will live our lives for something – what will we choose?

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