April 04, 2021 – Jesus Changes Lives

Easter Sunday
The Resurrection of the Lord
The Mass of Easter Day

Readings || Lecturas

Recording

Video

Preached at Assumption Parish in Bellingham, WA

English

Have you ever heard it said that Jesus is just a made-up, feel good story we tell ourselves and our children so that we do not have to face the reality of death? Or that the Resurrection was a lie created by the Apostles to save face after their teacher was arrested and killed? Or that Christianity somehow finds its origin and explanation in Medieval power dynamics rather than an empty tomb? I have heard all of these. They are all very common atheistic talking points. And they are all lies.

The truth is that a man in ancient Palestine conquered death. There are hundreds of eyewitnesses to the fact that, only days after having been killed by the Romans on a cross, he was alive, eating and drinking with his followers. There is an unbroken line of documentary evidence going all the way back to these eyewitnesses which would make it impossible for this story to be a fabrication. These eyewitnesses believed what they saw. Most people who deny the Resurrection deny it because they do not believe that such a thing is possible; but this is a pre-conceived bias, not a position that stems from an honest and impartial look at the historical record.

The historical record is clear. A man named Jesus was dead, and then he was not. We know where. We know when. There is no doubt.


Of course, true as it is, the Resurrection of Jesus would be nothing but an historical curiosity if it did not somehow have an impact on our lives today.

Thankfully, it does, but first we have to ask what the theological importance of resurrection is.

Biblically, death is the result of sin. The Book of Wisdom tells us, “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.” Instead, “through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned,” as St. Paul tells us in the Letter to the Romans. So sin and death are always related to one another, meaning that if a man conquers death, he has also simultaneously conquered sin.

Okay, so Jesus conquered death and sin. What does that have to do with us?

This is where baptism enters in. As St. Paul continues in his letter to the Romans, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.”

Somehow, mysteriously and miraculously, baptism allows us to share in both the death and the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus. When we go down into the water, we enter to tomb of the Lord, and when we come back up, we are resurrected with him. Each of us who are baptized have already died. We have died to sin and have been resurrected from it. We who are baptized share in the victory of Jesus over sin and death. Jesus has won his victory in us.


Which means there is a second proof of the Resurrection beyond the historical record. And that proof is that Jesus changes lives.

Take, for example, a fellow Christian who has overcome alcohol or drug addiction through a 12-step program. In my experience, these folks are often very spiritually intense, because they are absolutely certain that they have not won the victory on their own. They know, without a doubt, that it was Jesus who overcame their addiction, that it was Jesus who saved them from the darkness. This is what we mean when we say that we Christians share in the Resurrection – it means that Jesus conquers all that is sinful or broken in us. It means that Jesus rescues us from the power of sin and death. It means that Jesus changes our lives.

I can certainly say that my life has changed because of Jesus. I am not a priest because I enjoy being around people or because I enjoy thinking about anyone other than myself. I am naturally selfish, self-interested, impatient, and easily frustrated with the flaws of other people. I could easily see myself being the evil boss in some B-grade movie, who demands too much of those around him and never makes time for love or affection. But, thanks be to God, this is not how my life turned out. Because I met Jesus. And he changed my life. Jesus has conquered my vices and has given me the grace to grow in love for my fellow human beings, to develop a heart that cares more about people than results, to give my life to something greater than myself.

This is what Jesus does. He conquers sin and changes lives. I hope that each and every one of us Christians can name the difference Jesus has made for us. Admittedly, it is a daily struggle to allow Jesus to win his victory in us. Sometimes we close him out and let the darkness get the upper hand. But the Easter message is that, if we let him, Jesus always wins. Not even death could conquer our Lord, so why do we think our vices have any power to withstand his purifying love?


In case you were unaware, the empty tomb described in today’s Gospel is still around. Once the travel bans are lifted, any of you could travel to Jerusalem and see it for yourself. The archeological record leaves no doubt that this is the tomb venerated by the earliest generations of Christians.

So why do millions of Christians travel to that tomb every year? It could certainly be to see the historical curiosity, like any other tourist location in the old world. “Oh look, this is the place where Jesus rose from the dead. Let’s take a selfie.” But I like to think we go for a different reason – not to admire the tomb, but to mock it. Like the stuffed head of some beast on a trophy hunter’s wall, the tomb stands there humiliated and conquered, because it has lost all its power. What used to be a frightening image, an image of the finality of death, now stands disgraced, on display for the whole world to see. We mock the once-powerful tomb because we no longer have to fear it. Jesus has conquered it.

And if Jesus has conquered that tomb, nothing can stand in his way. If you are struggling, if you feel like you are stuck in a tomb and there is no way out, go to Jesus. Allow him to roll back the stone. Allow him to win his victory in you. Someday your struggles will no longer be a source of shame, but a source of joy. Your tomb will stand empty, a once powerful force now in display to be ridiculed and mocked for its powerlessness. Jesus opens tombs and changes lives. All lives. Your life. Our Lord Jesus Christ he has conquered sin and death and has risen from the grave. And in him, so have you.

Español

Algunas personas dicen que Jesús es solo una historia inventada que nos contamos a nosotros mismos y a nuestros hijos para sentirse bien y no tener que enfrentar la realidad de la muerte. Otros dicen que la Resurrección fue una mentira creada por los Apóstoles para salvar las apariencias después de que su maestro fuera arrestado y asesinado. Pero estas son mentiras.

La verdad es que un hombre en la antigua Palestina conquistó la muerte. Hay cientos de testigos presenciales de este hecho. El Nuevo Testamento registra este hecho, y el Nuevo Testamento fue escrito por personas que conocían a Jesús. Las personas que niegan la resurrección lo hacen porque se niegan a creer en Dios y se niegan a creer en milagros. Multa. Que se pudran en su oscuridad. Un hombre llamado Jesús estaba muerto y enterrado, y luego volvió a estar vivo.


Pero, ¿qué nos importa esto? Incluso si se levantó de entre los muertos, ¿por qué debería importarme dos mil años después?

Es porque Jesús no conquistó la muerte por sí mismo. Conquistó la muerte para todas las personas. Por todos nosotros. La muerte es un enemigo derrotado sin poder. Entonces, ¿cómo participamos de la resurrección de Jesús?

Es a través del bautismo. A veces pensamos que el bautismo no importa. Que podemos posponerlo. Que es una celebración meramente cultural. Pero no lo es. El bautismo es literalmente vida o muerte. Los bautizados tienen la garantía de participar de la victoria de Jesús sobre la muerte. Los que no están bautizados no tienen esta garantía y debemos encomendarlos a la misericordia de Dios.

¡Y estas son las buenas nuevas del cristianismo! Jesús ha conquistado la muerte, lo que significa que ha conquistado cualquier cosa. Los que nos unimos a Jesús a través del bautismo no tenemos nada que temer, porque Jesús también puede vencer cualquier cosa que nos amenace.


La primera prueba de la resurrección es el registro histórico. Pero la segunda prueba de la resurrección es que Jesús cambia vidas, algo que solo podría hacer si fuera más poderoso incluso que la muerte.

Considere, por ejemplo, a un compañero cristiano que ha superado la adicción al alcohol o las drogas a través de un programa de doce pasos. En mi experiencia, estas personas son a menudo muy intensas espiritualmente, porque están absolutamente seguras de que no han ganado la victoria por sí mismas. Saben, sin lugar a dudas, que fue Jesús quien venció su adicción, que fue Jesús quien los salvó de la oscuridad. Esto es lo que queremos decir cuando decimos que los cristianos compartimos la Resurrección: significa que Jesús conquista todo lo que es pecaminoso o quebrantado en nosotros. Significa que Jesús nos rescata del poder del pecado y la muerte. Significa que Jesús cambia nuestras vidas.

Ciertamente puedo decir que mi vida ha cambiado gracias a Jesús. No soy sacerdote porque disfruto estar rodeado de gente o porque disfruto pensando en alguien más que en mí mismo. Soy egoísta por naturaleza, interesado en mí mismo, impaciente y fácilmente frustrado con los defectos de otras personas. Fácilmente podía verme siendo una persona enojada, exigente y egoísta sin tiempo para el amor o la comunidad. Pero, gracias a Dios, no fue así como resultó mi vida. Porque conocí a Jesús. Y cambió mi vida. Jesús ha vencido mis vicios y me ha dado la gracia de crecer en el amor por mis semejantes, de desarrollar un corazón que se preocupa más por las personas que por los resultados, para dar mi vida a algo más grande que yo.

Eso es lo que hace Jesús. Conquista el pecado y cambia vidas. Espero que todos y cada uno de los cristianos podamos nombrar la diferencia que Jesús ha hecho por nosotros. Es cierto que es una lucha diaria permitir que Jesús obtenga su victoria en nosotros. A veces lo cerramos y dejamos que la oscuridad tome la delantera. Pero el mensaje de Pascua es que, si lo dejamos, Jesús siempre gana. Ni siquiera la muerte pudo conquistar a nuestro Señor, entonces, ¿por qué pensamos que nuestros vicios tienen poder para resistir su amor purificador?


Si Jesús ha conquistado esa tumba, nada se interpondrá en su camino. Si estás luchando, si te sientes atrapado en una tumba y no hay salida, ve a Jesús. Permítale hacer retroceder la piedra. Permítele que gane su victoria en ti. Algún día tus luchas ya no serán una fuente de vergüenza, sino una fuente de alegría. Tu tumba quedará vacía. Jesús abre tumbas y cambia vidas. Todas las vidas. Tu vida.

Nuestro Señor Jesucristo ha vencido el pecado y la muerte y ha resucitado de la tumba. Él es victorioso sobre todas las cosas, incluso sobre la muerte misma. Ahora permítele salir victorioso en ti.

Español (Original English)

Some people say that Jesus is just a made-up, feel good story we tell ourselves and our children so that we do not have to face the reality of death. Others say that the Resurrection was a lie created by the Apostles to save face after their teacher was arrested and killed. But these are lies.

The truth is that a man in ancient Palestine conquered death. There are hundreds of eyewitnesses to this fact. The New Testament records this fact, and the New Testament was written by people who knew Jesus. People who deny the resurrection do so because they refuse to believe in God and refuse to believe in miracles. Fine. Let them rot in their darkness. A man named Jesus was dead and buried, and then he was alive again.


But what does this matter to us? Even if he did rise from the dead, why should I care two-thousand years later?

It is because Jesus did not conquer death for himself. He conquered death for all people. For all of us. Death is a defeated enemy with no power. So how do we share in the resurrection of Jesus?

It is through baptism. We think that baptism does not matter. That we can put it off. That it is a cultural celebration. But it is not. Baptism is literally life and death. Those who are baptized are guaranteed to share in Jesus’ victory over death. Those who are not baptized do not have this guarantee, and we must commend them to the mercy of God.

And this is the good news of Christianity! Jesus has conquered death, which means that he has conquered anything. Those of us who join ourselves to Jesus through baptism have nothing to fear, because Jesus can conquer anything that threatens us, too.


The first proof of the Resurrection is the historical record. But the second proof of the resurrection is that Jesus changes lives, something he could only do if he was more powerful even than death.

Take, for example, a fellow Christian who has overcome alcohol or drug addiction through a 12-step program. In my experience, these folks are often very spiritually intense, because they are absolutely certain that they have not won the victory on their own. They know, without a doubt, that it was Jesus who overcame their addiction, that it was Jesus who saved them from the darkness. This is what we mean when we say that we Christians share in the Resurrection – it means that Jesus conquers all that is sinful or broken in us. It means that Jesus rescues us from the power of sin and death. It means that Jesus changes our lives.

I can certainly say that my life has changed because of Jesus. I am not a priest because I enjoy being around people or because I enjoy thinking about anyone other than myself. I am naturally selfish, self-interested, impatient, and easily frustrated with the flaws of other people. I could easily see myself being the evil boss in some B-grade movie, who demands too much of those around him and never makes time for love or affection. But, thanks be to God, this is not how my life turned out. Because I met Jesus. And he changed my life. Jesus has conquered my vices and has given me the grace to grow in love for my fellow human beings, to develop a heart that cares more about people than results, to give my life to something greater than myself.

This is what Jesus does. He conquers sin and changes lives. I hope that each and every one of us Christians can name the difference Jesus has made for us. Admittedly, it is a daily struggle to allow Jesus to win his victory in us. Sometimes we close him out and let the darkness get the upper hand. But the Easter message is that, if we let him, Jesus always wins. Not even death could conquer our Lord, so why do we think our vices have any power to withstand his purifying love?


If Jesus has conquered that tomb, nothing can stand in his way. If you are struggling, if you feel like you are stuck in a tomb and there is no way out, go to Jesus. Allow him to roll back the stone. Allow him to win his victory in you. Someday your struggles will no longer be a source of shame, but a source of joy. Your tomb will stand empty. Jesus opens tombs and changes lives. All lives. Your life.

Our Lord Jesus Christ he has conquered sin and death and has risen from the grave. He is victorious over all things, even death itself. Now allow him to be victorious in you.

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