26 March 2018

Jesus is Alive!

Easter Vigil & Easter Sunday
The thought had crossed my mind, but apparently someone put up a billboard on 23 that says something like, “Jesus is dead.  April fools!”  I have to admit, it is a little weird that Easter falls on April Fools Day.  But as we assemble to celebrate our Lord’s Resurrection, we should ask ourselves if we truly believe that Jesus is alive.  And if we believe it, is that belief evident in our actions?
It’s very easy to treat Jesus like we treat any other deceased teacher or famous figure.  Someone recently told me that a lot of young people today see Jesus in the same light as Mahatma Ghandi, or Abraham Lincoln, or Socrates, that is, that they were good people, who taught and did good things, but now they’re gone, and relegated to history books and their writings.  Jesus is simply one of a long list of teachers and do-gooders who have graced the earth with their presence.  
But there is a major difference: Mahatma Ghandi, Abraham Lincoln, and Socrates, along with all the other teachers and good people, are all dead.  Jesus is alive, and we know it because His disciples, who, as our Gospel relates, were not looking for Him to be alive, saw the risen Jesus.  We can joke about “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” (because Ulysses S. Grant is actually in a sarcophagus above ground), but the tomb of Jesus is empty.  I have seen it, and there’s no one there.
I think it can be easy at times to treat Jesus like a deceased relative that we loved dearly.  We like to remember that person; we probably have a nice picture of that person in our home.  Maybe we even talk to that person from time to time.  I know I have a picture of my deceased grandmother in my home, as well as the pictures of other friends who have died in my office.  And we do profess by faith in our funeral Masses that, for the faithful, life is changed, not ended.  But with Jesus it’s even more dramatic.  His Body and Soul and united and He is active in the world.  
And it’s not just that he’s alive in the people who believe in Him, in their hearts and in their minds.  He’s more alive than that.  People saw Him, touched Him, heard Him, and ate with Him.  And we can, too.  
I think about my friends who are alive, and the way I think of them, versus how I think of my deceased relatives.  There’s a difference.  I’m not sure I can quite explain it, but there is.  You probably know what I’m talking about.  But when we think of Jesus, in which category do we put Jesus: our alive friends, or our deceased relatives?
So what does it look like to actually believe and act as if Jesus is alive?  What are some of the ways that others can know that we believe Jesus is alive?  One way is by our actions.  St. Paul (in our second reading) encouraged us to put away the old yeast, “the yeast of malice and wickedness,” and to live with the new “bread of sincerity and truth.”  If Jesus is alive, then He encourages us and strengthens us by the power of the Holy Spirit to live in a new way, a way that patterns our life on the life of Jesus.  We reject hatred, we reject vengeance, we reject evil desires, and we live for honesty, for love, for forgiveness, and for virtue.  
I don’t know about you, but I also talk about my friends who are alive a lot more than I talk about my deceased relatives.  Yes, we talk about the deceased especially around holidays.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  But we tend to tell stories about what we do with our friends, our communications with our friends, and how much we value our friendship especially when that friend is still alive.  I’m sure I bore people to death with some of my stories from ride alongs with my State Trooper friends.  There are things with other friends that seem funny to me that make no sense to people who don’t know my friends.  And I often will sing the praises of friends who help pick me up when I’m feeling down.  
Do we do the same with Jesus?  We might have to think about it, but we all have stories about times that we have spent with Jesus that are memorable.  Some of those stories may even sound crazy, but we know that it was Jesus and that He was there with us.  And how many times have we experienced the love of Jesus?  And yet, how often do we talk about that?  About ten chapters after our second reading, St. Paul also says to the people of Corinth, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain; you are still in your sins.  …If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.”  In other words, if Jesus is dead, if Jesus was just a good teacher who went the way of all the other good teachers, then redemption is not ours, and we are the most pathetic people.  

But Jesus is alive.  It’s not an April Fools joke.  Recommit yourselves this Easter to living like Jesus is alive: not only remembering Him on each Sunday as we come to Mass (that is important), but talking with Him, listening to Him, inviting Him to be a part of your life, talking about Him, and living a life like Jesus’ to the best of our ability.