30 March 2013

New Life

Easter Sunday

New life.  The phrase has become so common that we often forget the power of those two, short words.  But those words have power, because everything changed from that point in time for all eternity, both all time that had come before, and all time that would follow after.  People had dreamed about life that would never end, but it was always something that could not be seen, could not be experienced.  Now, new life was not just a theory or a pious idea, but a reality that we saw in Jesus.  He was the same Jesus, but He was different.  He still bore the marks of His crucifixion, but His body was not the same type of body as before; it was filled with the glory of God.
            New life.  What an effect it had on those first disciples: Mary Magdalene, the first to see the risen Christ; Peter and John who ran to the tomb in today’s Gospel; the Blessed Virgin Mary, who received back the Son that she had watched die on the cross.  What a shock it was for them first to find the empty tomb, and then to see Jesus appear in their midst, though the doors were locked. 
            New life.  It gave Peter the courage, after the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, to proclaim to the Jews who were gathered for Passover that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the fulfillment of the prophecies of Moses and all the other prophets.  It gave Peter the courage to preach that Jesus is “‘the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead…[and] that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.’”  It gave countless numbers of people the courage to be put to death rather than deny Jesus as their Savior.
            New life.  It caused the first believers, most of who were Jewish, to not only observe the Sabbath, the Saturday rest, but also to observe the 8th day, the first day of the week, when Jesus rose from the dead, and gather together each Sunday to remind themselves of what seemed to good to be true, but was true; to hear the prophecies that referred to Jesus; and to fulfill the commandment of the Lord made at the Last Supper and celebrate the Eucharist in His memory.  It caused the first believers, especially Gentiles, non-Jews, to change the entire way they lived their lives.  No longer would they worship idols or the emperor; no longer would they participate in the sexual immorality of their neighbors; no longer would they base their life on pleasure and worldly wisdom, but on the Word of God, both through what was in Scriptures and the Teachings of the Apostles, as what ruled their lives.  They did as St. Paul wrote to the Colossians, and as we heard in our second reading today: “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”  They put on a heavenly mindset, even while living their earthly pilgrimage.
            Brothers and sisters, the power of the resurrection, the power of new life is not only in the past.  It is a power still as potent today as it was in the first century when Peter and John ran to the tomb.  It is still as potent as in the third century when Sts. Perpetua and Felicity died in the arena rather than deny Christ.  It is still as potent as in  the thirteenth century when St. Francis divested himself of all that his earthly father had given him in order to follow in poverty his Heavenly Father. It is still as potent as in the nineteenth century when St. Marianne Cope dedicated her life to serving those in Molokai who had Hansen’s disease.  It is still as potent as in the twentieth century when St. Maximilian Kolbe put himself in the place of another prisoner at Auschwitz.  You can grab on to that power, and you can have new life.  You can be transformed, first on the inside, and then, after the resurrection of body at the end of time, on the outside.
            If you know Jesus, then everything is different.  Sure, we may look the same as we did before, but the way we live our lives will testify to the fact that we have new life in Jesus.  It changes the way we treat each other.  It changes the way we make decisions.  It changes the way we spend our time.  We base our lives not on our own ideas, but on the logic of God found in the Scriptures and in the Teachings of the Apostles and their successors.  We gather together each Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and to remind ourselves of the power that new life can have in our lives.
            “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.”  Jesus said to his disciples how He came to set this world on fire, and how He wishes it were already burning.  New life, and the power it has, can set this world afire with God’s love.  I invite you today, paraphrasing the words of St. Paul: Arise, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you new life.