Saturday, March 26, 2016

HOMILY: Easter Vigil, 2016 “All changed—changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born!” by Mary Eileen Collingwood ARCWP

Mary Eileen Collingwood, ARCWP

“All changed—changed utterly.  A terrible beauty is born!”

These are the words that W. B. Yeats wrote a century ago in his poem “Easter 1916” that not only echoed the rising of Jesus’ rebirth, but the rising of the Irish nation against British rule.  It is quite clear that Yeats chose this particular day and time to express to the world the importance of this historical event that created change and rebirth for the Irish people.  After the Easter event, no oppression could triumph.  A new life, a rebirth, was in order for Ireland!

Today, I ask you, what does the story of Jesus’ resurrection change for us?  Was this an historical event?  What has happened that makes you believe there was a resurrection at all?

When we look at the stories of the resurrection in the four Gospel accounts, they reveal that the apostles didn’t know what to believe.   They were incredulous.  They didn’t understand or recognize Jesus’ resurrection at all—they just weren’t ready mentally or spiritually to encounter such an extraordinary event.  If these stories of confusion and utter disbelief were made up, to be sure, the authors would never have portrayed a woman, Mary Magdalene by name, appearing in all four gospels, who first understood and believed that Jesus rose from the dead.  Surely, Mary Magdalene was rightly named “the Apostle to the apostles.”  She proclaimed to them all, “come and see, our Master, my Rabboni, has risen to new life!”

But what if Jesus did NOT physically rise from the dead?  After all, no one saw it happen—they just found his body missing . . .   then they encountered his likeness in some glorious form, walking in the garden, through doors, greeting them in words of peace and love, recalling the stories in Scripture that predicted his existence.  Who really knows?  Would your faith be changed if there was no physical resurrection?

Remember the family members, the close friends, the models in your life who have died.  Do they still have influence in your life?  Do they appear in your thoughts?  Does their life example that you recall-- whether good or bad--  keep you on the steady road of right living and truth?  Or perhaps, like the apostles experienced, the circumstances of their life and death may still be keeping you in utter confusion.  

Paul tells us in Romans that if Christ has not been raised, our faith is in vain.  Is he saying that if Christ did not rise from the dead in the physical sense, our faith in him is for naught?
Personally, I take great umbrage by that thought.
Why?  Because Jesus’ life, ministry, and message is the model for my life.  Because Jesus opened up the locked doors of thought that oppressed the People of God.  Jesus freed us from laws and attitudes that held the living Spirit of God hostage.  Jesus was a true Jew; a faithful Jew that wanted his people to see that they were stuck and bogged down in the rules and formulas and attitudes they allowed to dominate their lives.  His message removed the oppressive yoke that held them down, a yoke that stopped them from recognizing the life and promise that lay before them.  And because he came to know that God was calling him forward to deliver this message of new life and hope, he embraced that calling and drew great crowds when he preached.  He appeared to have so much influence on the Jewish people at large, he became a threat to the Roman rulers of his time.  They did not want him to gain more power than they had.  They did not want him to rise up and take over the control they enjoyed in their Empire.  He was executed because they viewed him as an insurrectionist that had to be stopped.
And Jesus knew this.  Jesus spoke his truth to the power of his time and was willing to die for his beliefs.  He laid down his life for our ultimate deliverance. It was in his dying that he was freed.  It was in his dying that he rose up in power and influence and in the faithful imaginations of all who believed in the truth he proclaimed. 
When we break bread together at this Table tonight, and we hear the words, “You are the Body of Christ,” do we truly believe that Jesus has been reborn and lives within us?  This is not an original thought, my friends.  Recall the words of St Teresa of Avila who lived as a Carmelite in the 16th century, when she prayed:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
How will we put this Easter faith to work tomorrow?
All of us can live knowing that through Jesus’ death, a terrible beauty continues to be born!  Resurrection, indeed!


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