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Happy Easter 2017!

An Easter cross

An Easter cross (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

If you are observing the Easter holiday today, please accept best wishes from all of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute. May your celebration of Christ’s Resurrection be peaceful and enjoyable.

And, for your reading pleasure on this joyous Easter Sunday, here is an account of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Gospel of Matthew (28:1-10):

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake;
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven,
approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
His appearance was like lightning
and his clothing was white as snow.
The guards were shaken with fear of him
and became like dead men.
Then the angel said to the women in reply,
“Do not be afraid!
I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
‘He has been raised from the dead,
and he is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him.’
Behold, I have told you.”
Then they went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce this to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”

Courtesy of St. James Cathedral, here is a copy of Father Michael G. Ryan’s homily for Easter Sunday 2017. Father Ryan has been the pastor of St. James (the Cathedral Church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle) since 1988, and has publicly championed many progressive causes from the pulpit, including climate action, immigration reform, and gun responsibility.

My Friends in Christ,

I sometimes wonder, if Easter is the greatest of Christian feasts – and it surely is – why so much about it is so very superficial. We dress up a bit, head for church, fight for a seat, take in the decorations, sing the hymns, listen to the homily (or not!), give the peace to our neighbor, receive Communion, and then head home for brunch or an Easter egg hunt, but basically for business as usual.

If Easter really is our greatest feast, is that enough? Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against any of those things I just mentioned. But they’re not enough.

Easter is too important to be only a passing moment in church, a family get-together, or some fun time with the kids. Easter needs to be more than a moment, more than a day; it needs to be a way of life, a way of looking at life. In the end, Easter needs to be a revolution!

But we’ve managed to tame Easter. We’ve reduced it to a feel-good moment, to a social event, to bunnies, baskets and bonnets! We’ve sanded down the hard edges of Easter – its bold faith, its demanding discipleship, its countercultural values, its explosive possibilities – and the result is an Easter that is anything but a revolution.

For the disciples of Jesus – Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, and the others – the resurrection of Jesus changed everything – turned everything inside-out and upside-down. Nothing was ever the same again. It was in every sense a revolution! It didn’t happen all at once, of course: there was confusion at first, fear, even skepticism.

Only gradually did it dawn on the disciples of Jesus what had happened and what it meant, but make no mistake, Easter changed everything for them. They were on fire after the Easter experience and they unleashed a firestorm that swept through the ancient world!

What does Easter do for you? Does it set you on fire? I’d have to give myself mixed reviews. I don’t always live my faith in a way that speaks of Easter, of Christ’s victory over death.

But I should, because here’s the thing: the resurrection of Jesus is God’s definitive pronouncement, God’s divine assurance that life is infinitely stronger than death, that life, not death, will always get the last word. And that has implications for everything under the sun – everything! – our personal lives, our spiritual lives, and our lives as citizens of this world: our principles, our priorities, even our politics.

If life has the last word, then love must overcome hatred, forgiveness must overcome bitterness, then generosity must overcome greed.

And in the world out there – the very troubled world out there – if life is to overcome death, the hungry must be clothed, housed and fed, the unborn must be protected, refugees must be harbored and immigrants welcomed, swords must be turned into plowshares, and God’s magnificent creation must be treated with the greatest awe and wonder. Each of these is a ‘life issue,’ and since the resurrection of Jesus is about life – life overcoming death in all its ugly forms – each of them is also an Easter issue.

That, my friends, is the Easter revolution I’m talking about. Easter, Christ’s resurrection, puts us on the side of life, not death. It should make us champions – vocal, impassioned, outspoken advocates – for life, however, and whenever, and wherever it is threatened by the forces of death.

On Easter, God did not just roll back a stone and raise a dead body to life. God did that, of course, but God raised up Jesus so that his gospel would not be a dead letter but a living force.

And, my friends, the only way the gospel of Jesus lives is if we live it. Not just on Easter Sunday, but every day. Think of it this way: Easter is as much an agenda as it is an event. That means we have our work cut out for us because we are surrounded by so much death!

And I know: it’s hard to hold onto hope when we’re dealing with death in the many ways it comes at us – illness, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the break-up of a marriage, war, terrorism, religious persecution, and on and on it goes.

Where are we to find hope and life in all of that? It’s challenging but we must not let our fears, our disillusionments have the last word. It is our faith that needs to get the last word: our Easter faith.

Years ago, the great Jesuit theologian and paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin gave a lecture that revealed his Easter faith. He painted an idyllic vision of unity and peace for the human family and for the world. Afterwards, a colleague challenged him: “That’s a wonderful, tantalizing vision, but suppose we blow up the world with a nuclear bomb? What happens to your great vision then?”

“That would set things back millions of years,” Chardin replied, “but the vision will still come to pass, not because I say so or because the facts right now indicate that it will, but because God promised it and in raising Jesus from the dead God has shown that he can deliver on that promise!”

My friends, the resurrection of Jesus assures us that our world and our lives will make sense in the long run, even if our world and our lives sometimes seem to be spinning out of control. The march of history will not end in some cruel joke even if along the way there are difficult detours. The final word in our personal pilgrimage and in the story of the human family will not be death but life because Christ is risen. That’s the Easter faith we need to take out there when we leave the Cathedral today. So, my friends, let the revolution begin. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Father Michael G. Ryan

Easter reads:

Again, Happy Easter!


One Comment

  1. Candy Mackeras
    Posted May 1st, 2017 at 4:40 AM | Permalink

    Spring is in full swing, indeed! Blessings to all.