Easter Homily: Christ is Risen, Christ is Truly Risen. Alleluia, Alleluia!
We hear at Easter time the word, Alleluia. We hear it over and over again, Alleluia, Alleluia! As we know, it means praise the Lord. And that is what brings us to Mass today, Easter Sunday. This is a special time of praise and why we have a special word, Alleluia.
The Church calls us together today to announce the reason for our joy, Christ is risen, Christ is truly risen.
Even though we did not run here as Peter and John did to the empty tomb, we come here with the same hope to renew our faith that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. With all the other things going on in life, it would be so easy to forget that at the very core of our identity as Catholics is the recognition that Jesus Christ who died on the cross and is alive. To be renewed in this faith, we come today as millions and millions have for 2,000 years to hear all over again: the tomb is empty, the Lord is Risen, we have seen him so that you and I can profess our faith, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
An essential part of the Easter celebration is hearing this Good News. The first homily that Peter preached and is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles is the announcement that this Jesus whom you killed is risen from the dead.
In hearing the faithful witness of that message we hope to reaffirm our own faith, our own belief that Jesus is truly risen from the dead. We were not there so we need to hear again the witness of those who were.
The four Gospel accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. All relate essentially the same message: the tomb is empty, and witnesses have seen the Risen Lord. The narrative has been so meticulously preserved. All the successors to the apostles so carefully guarded the accounts and so thoughtfully made provision that they be written down and affirmed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
All of this was done with such precision and care so that you and I today are able to place our faith, our trust, our confidence in the words of the Scripture in the living witness of the Church. As we listened to the first reading: The Acts of the Apostles, Peter and the Apostles — appointed witnesses to the Resurrection — begins the ministry of proclamation, telling the story. So that witness has continued in Christ’s Church.
Where else would you and I go to hear this remarkable story? Who else can tell us with authority that the tomb is empty and that Christ truly is risen?
Today there is only one living witness to the Lord Jesus, only one witness who can say, I was there when Christ died, when he rose, when he ascended in glory, when he sent the gift of the Spirit on us. That one remaining living witness is Christ’s mystical or new Body, his Church.
It is that Church that summons us today to hear all over again the good news — that we would not otherwise hear with confidence, Christ is Risen.
But we do more than just hear this great news. As Pope Francis tells us in his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, “Christ’s Resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world.”
In the sprinkling rite that is a part of our liturgy today we recall – we remember – our own baptism.
We are not bystanders looking at the empty tomb and simply listening to the witnesses tell us that Jesus is risen. You and I are invited into the new life of the Risen Lord – a life that has the power to go on into eternity.
The sprinkling of the water reminds us of the words of the Prophet Ezekiel that are being fulfilled today: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities… I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you… I will put my spirit within you.”
In a few moments, we will all be asked to once again renew our Baptismal Promises. I ask you to join yourself spiritually to the hundreds and hundreds of adults throughout this archdiocese who were baptized into the Church at the Easter Vigil last evening and also to unite yourself spiritually to all of us in this church and throughout the whole Church as we once again affirm our faith that Christ is risen, Christ is truly risen, and that we share that new life.
Again Pope Francis reminds us, “May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope.” We do not sit and watch as something transpires, goes on by us. We are actively transformed changed.
Our Liturgy today is both the telling of the Good News and the action – the Eucharist – by which we become a sharer in Christ’s new life.
Finally, and at the very center of our celebration, is the Eucharistic Liturgy. Here we do what Jesus asked us to do in memory of his death and Resurrection, we re-present that mystery in a way that we become a part of it.
As Pope, now Saint, John Paul II so beautifully taught us: “When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and ‘the work of our redemption is carried out.’ (LG, 3)” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 11)
What Easter says to us is, what the Church has witnessed for 20 centuries is: Christ has risen from the dead, broken the chains of death, and done so not only for himself but also for us. Is it any wonder that the Church invests this day with so much symbolism and so much joy?
Today the words, “Christ is risen, Christ is truly risen. Alleluia, Alleluia!” take on special significance for us because today as a result of the Eucharist not only is Christ risen, but he is risen in us.