Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection
I celebrated Mass at St. Charles in Burlington (7:45am) and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Sedro-Woolley (9:30)
Not the Real Homily
I spent all of Holy Saturday trying to write a homily, and I ended the day feeling completely uninspired. So I will be preaching my homily from last year at the Masses, with my sincere apologies to the 7:45am Mass at St. Charles that will be hearing this for the second year in a row. However, because sometimes even half-baked thoughts can be helpful to people, I have posted my incomplete draft here.
Pasé todo el Sábado Santo tratando de escribir una homilía, y terminé el día sintiéndome completamente sin inspiración. Así que voy a predicar mi homilía del año pasado en las misas, con mis sinceras disculpas a la Misa de 7:45am en San Carlos que va a escuchar esto por segundo año consecutivo. Sin embargo, porque a veces incluso los pensamientos a medio hornear pueden ser útiles para las personas, he publicado mi borrador incompleto aquí.
Incomplete Draft #1
The paramount value in our society today is freedom. We demand personal freedom, so that no one else, not even our family, can tell us what to do. We demand political freedom, rejecting restrictions placed on us by society or government. And we demand moral freedom, claiming that we ourselves, as individuals, are the ultimate standard of what is right and what is wrong. We have even begun to demand freedom from our Creator, rejecting his plan for humanity so that we can modify our bodies to suit our preferences. We believe that if we have no restrictions on our lives whatsoever, and if we can live our lives exactly how we want, then we will finally be completely happy.
And yet, as we gain more and more freedoms personally, politically, and morally, our society only seems to increase in suffering, anxiety, depression, anger, and fear. Ask yourself: are you as happy as you believe that you could be? Are the people around you marked by a deep peace and contentment? And if not, what still has power over you? What additional freedoms could somehow make this better?
Many of us will acknowledge the deep unhappiness in our lives or our society, and we will still be tempted to look to freedom to solve our problems. “If only I did not have to work, I would be happy.” Or “If only I did not have so many family responsibilities, I would be happy.” Or “If only I had a little more financial freedom, I would be happy.” More money, more time, more freedom. And yet, in my experience as a spiritual director, none of these ever bring the happiness we are seeking. We get the thing we think we want, and we still feel empty and without contentment. The grass always looks greener on the other side, but it never is.
My friends, it is true that we are unhappy because we lack freedom. It is true that one of our deepest desires is to be free. The problem is that most of us do not realize what we want to be free from. We do not, actually, want to be free from family or people or society or morality or God. What we want to be free from is sin and death.
Think, for example, the many ways we experience death in the world: incurable diseases and natural disasters, certainly. But also depression, sadness, lack of motivation. Seeing our youthful optimism turn to adult realism or cynicism. Watching the Earth or our society grow old and rot in front of us. Death constantly surrounds us and fills us with an inescapable dread.
Or think, for example, about all of those things that prevent us from becoming the best person we believe we could be. Many of us struggle with addictions to our phones or to inappropriate content on the internet. Many of us do not treat our spouses or children or coworkers the way we would like to. Many of us struggle with anger or unforgiveness or being judgmental. These are the personal sins that we desire at the very depths of our hearts to be free from, because these are the things that have true power over our lives. These are the things in the face of which we feel completely overwhelmed and helpless.
And yet, we are not without hope! Jesus Christ has risen from the dead! The Bible tells us that death is a result of sin, so the one who has defeated death has also defeated sin as well. Jesus has destroyed the power of sin and death, and we are now set free.
“But Father, all the things you just described still happen. We are still depressed, overwhelmed by our flaws, and surrounded by death. Jesus clearly had no effect at all!”
You are correct – when Jesus conquered death, he did not remove it from the world. God loves us enough to give us free will, and free will requires the ability to choose evil, and this choice for evil always results in sin and death. So Jesus did not recreate the world without free will.
And yet, he removed the power of sin and death all the same. What does is mean, then, that sin and death no longer have any power?
Let me ask you this: why is it that we fear death? For many, it is because we fear that it is the end and that there may be nothingness beyond. But Jesus resurrected from the dead, and gave us a share in that resurrection, so we no longer have to fear the nothingness. Or maybe, we worry that the other side may be worse than this one. But by his resurrection, Jesus opened the gates of Heaven to us so that we could spend eternity with our loving Creator. So we definitely know that eternal bliss is possible. Or maybe we fear death because we think Heaven is going to be boring and we worry about all the things we are going to miss out on here on Earth. But Heaven is not clouds and halos, it is a reaction of this world, but perfected. Everything you could do here, you can do in Heaven, but perfectly and without suffering or sin. So we do not have to fear eternal boredom. Because of the Resurrection, our fears are baseless.
Incomplete Draft #2
Who or what has power over your life?
When most of us think of this question, we list people and organizations. If we are young, we will talk about our parents and teachers. If we are grown, it is the government, or our employer, or our spouse and children that come to our minds. Some of us may even go so far as to list the Church. And yes, every single one of these things has power over our lives because they make demands on us, either by imposing rules or by asking for support.
But these are all external actors, things that affect us from the outside, and from which we can escape or hide, maybe for a time, maybe forever. What most of us fail to realize is that the things that really have power over our lives are the things that are internal, the thoughts, the feelings, the worries, and anxieties.
Let me give you an example: Let’s say I am struggling to forgive my brother, because he insulted my wife at Easter dinner three years ago. (Of course, in reality, I have neither a brother nor a wife, but we all know these stories.) And let’s say that I have not spoken with my brother now for three years. From an external perspective, my brother has absolutely no power over me: he cannot make me do anything and he has no way to hurt or insult me directly because we are not speaking. And yet, I am constantly thinking about my brother and about how angry I am at him. And sometimes I let the anger subside and I become sad about the fact that we no longer have a relationship. You can see how this internal movement of my heart has far more power over my life than my brother ever did.
What is going on here?