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Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

04 April 2021

Appears in: Messages and Homilies

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord 2021

Homily

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, I made frequent visits to our Catholic schools. I’m certainly looking forward to the day when I can do that again. It provides a wonderful opportunity to connect with the students. What often happens is the gathering together of some students to meet with me for a sort of “town hall” discussion and ask me questions. As you would expect, the questions will vary by age. In the younger grades they want to know where I grew up, do I have brothers and sisters, do I have a pet, what is my favourite colour, how old are you? (When once I shared my age with a class of grade one students, a little boy said, “Boy, you look pretty good for how old you are!”) In later ages, the questions become more serious, reflective of their seeking to understand significant issues.

That same transition in questioning has unfolded in society at large over the last year. In the course of the past twelve months, the harm caused by the pandemic has moved many people away from the banal and frivolous questions that often occupy our thoughts and mark our discourse to ones of profound depth and serious consequence. Not infrequently do we hear people speak of their inner questioning of the priorities that had heretofore shaped their living, recognizing that it is time for a re-ordering of things. The questioning extends to the assumptions on which they had based their search for happiness, having been awakened by shattered hopes to the need for a radically new grounding of their lives. As a community we have also been posing serious questions to ourselves. How must we change the way we attend to the needs of our beloved seniors and give support to those who care for them? Why did we spiral downward so quickly from communal solidarity to societal fracture in our response to the pandemic? What is it about our economy that leaves so many people and nations in poverty? These and other questions have left us with the conviction, frequently expressed, that a thorough re-set is needed, a new normal. Yet, what that re-set needs to be, precisely, remains elusive. That, too, still rests at the level of a question.

Easter announces the answer. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the great re-set for which our world has deeply yearned, not only in the past year but ever since the first sin of Adam and Eve. When Jesus rose from the grave, he reversed history’s persistent decline and re-established it on the path leading to eternal life. His resurrection is the light in which we see clearly the meaning, beauty, and destiny of every man, woman, and child. In his light, we know what our priorities must be for a rightly ordered life that leads to peace. In other words, Jesus the Risen Lord is, in himself, the great re-set, both for each individual human life and for the entire world. For our questioning and searching, for our need for solid ground and a future of sure hope, Jesus alone is the answer.

Yet, as we know from what happens in a school, it is not enough simply to give students an answer. What is necessary is to lead them to the answer so that they will really understand and accept it. The best way to do that is to ask them questions in return. That dynamic is critical for learning. When the students by their queries express a desire to know, the questions then posed to them by the teacher aim to engage their thought and initiate critical reflection so as to lead to the acceptance and appropriation of the answer. This is true for adult learning also, perhaps even more so.

Now that the Gospel has proclaimed Jesus as the re-set humanity seeks, and has thus announced him as the answer to our deepest questioning, the Liturgy of this Easter Sunday will momentarily pose to us a question that aims to engage dramatically our thoughts and hearts and so lead us to an interior acceptance of what is proclaimed, in order to lead us into that answer. The question is simply this: Do you believe? Now, at first, such a question may surprise us, and we might think: “Well, of course, I believe! After all, that’s why I am here at mass in the first place, isn’t it?” Yet, before we have the question formally posed to us, let’s allow it to engage us and consider what faith is, what it means to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Faith is an awakening to the truth of God’s love, revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and a consequent decision to surrender one’s life entirely to that love and be carried by its power. Faith is not merely an assent of the mind. It is the handing over of my whole life into the hands of God, who in the resurrection of Christ has brought me to the conviction that I am completely loved and will be thoroughly cared for. Faith accepts Jesus as the re-set, and yields to the re-ordering he wants to bring about in my life.
So, when we hear that question, “Do you believe,” we can now appreciate how deeply it is intended to engage us. It is an invitation to full surrender. We are already baptized believers, yes, but the journey into full faith takes a lifetime, unfolding as it does in the midst of a world that tempts us not to follow Christ and to be our own re-set. This is why we need to hear the question again and again, and why the Church in her wisdom does not cease in her Easter liturgy to pose it.

When I ask the very young students “Who has a question?”, they’ll shoot up their hands and say, “pick me, pick me!” They get excited when I choose them, and are proud when they ask it. Yet, when I begin to answer, their attention wanders, they look all around or begin chatting with their friends, not paying the slightest attention to what I’m saying. All that matters is the question; they do not move beyond it to the answer. Let’s be careful that we do not do the same. This past year has brought to our awareness that we do carry within us serious questions about life. The Church invites us today not to remain at the level of our questions but move beyond them to accept and surrender to their only answer: Jesus Christ, Risen from the dead.

 

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
St. Joseph’s Basilica
April 4th, 2021