1. He was sitting, towards the back of the church on the night of September 12th ,
a. At the Mass we celebrated the day after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
b. His new wife was sitting next to him,.
1. He was not a parishioner, in fact had left the Catholic Church years before, but I knew him well and in fact had celebrated his marriage only a couple of years before.
2. After the mass, at dinner,
a. he shared with us how he survived the destruction of the world trade center,
1. because two people, complete strangers,
2. allowed him to get into their car and ride out the stifling cloud of debris and dust as the towers collapsed . . .
3. and then drove him home to 110th street.
b. “Boy”, I said, “Talk about angels unawares! Thank God those people were there for you!”
3. I am sure all of us have heard stories like that.
1. I used to tell that story a lot in homilies but am more careful now,
2. because one time a woman who heard it said. “Nice story. But what about the three thousand other people who didn’t have God sending angels in cars to protect them?”
3. she had lost her son that day. She said
1. that she was supposed to die before her son
2. She was supposed to see him married, hold his children, see him happy.
4. “IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY,” she said, again and again.
4. Easter is supposed to be a happy time,
a. A happiness symbolized flowers and brightly colored eggs,
1. festive family dinners
2. And of course, the story of Jesus’ resurrection.
5. And yet I cant help but think about this woman every year.
a. And so many others like her this year.
6. Like the families of Wallace Romney, Ellis Marsalis and Kevin Thomas Duffy
7. Like the families of Fathers Frank Damis, John T. Monahagn and Leonard DiNola
8. Like the families of so many Firefighters and police officers, health care workers, Doctors and nurses
9. Like our own families and friends who are suffering losses and praying for the survival of those we work with, know and love in this time of plague.
10. How this year, so many of the things which symbolize the happiness of Easter will be present
a. the eggs and flowers, chocolate bunnies and candy baskets,
11. But families’ dinners will have to be had online
12. And even then there will be familiar faces missing.
13. And when they hear the story of the resurrection of Jesus,
a. they will think, if not say, “Nice story. But what about the all other people who didn’t have God raising them from the dead?”
b. IT IS JUST NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY.
14. OF course it is not.
15. We want to believe the world is a just place
a. that is why we like to hear the happy stories,
1. where family and friends are safe and sound, Where people return healthy from hospitals,
2. where friends are saved by angels in automobiles.
3. But of course, the world is not always a just place.
4. We know that IT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY.
1. But all too often, it is.
16. IT was not supposed to be that way that first Good Friday in Jerusalem either.
a. Jesus was supposed to be their promised Messiah.
b. God was supposed to have sent Jesus to save them,
1. as God saved them at the Red Sea through Moses.
c. He was supposed to conquer the Romans not be conquered by them.
d. but now Jesus was dead
e. and His disciples were in hiding.
f. IT WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY.
17. But then, with a relatively short time of a few years,
a. That group of disciples began to travel from town to town.
b. They risked their lives to tell people a story about an experience
1. That had transformed them, and soon would transform thousands, eventually millions of others,
1. That they had seen their friend Jesus
2. they had spoken with him,
3. touched him
4. that he was risen from the dead.
2. This experience is what we celebrate here this Easter, the story of Jesus’ resurrection.
18. And yet the question begs to be asked:
a. Sure it is nice to hear a happy ending to Jesus’ story.
b. But Jesus’ world was full of stories about people rising from the dead. The Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans all had stories of dying and rising gods.
c. Moreover, the Jewish people in Jesus day believed that one day, everyone would rise from the dead . . . in God’s kingdom at the end of the world.
d. What made Jesus’ resurrection different?
19. What made Jesus’ resurrection different,
a. was that his first disciples realized that,
1. God, who had saved them through the waters of the red sea in the days of Moses, was doing it again in Jesus.
2. That the resurrection was not about Jesus in heaven
3. but about Jesus here with us on earth.
b. Thus it was not a happy story about Jesus but about us
1. For Jesus resurrection was the beginning of the promised resurrection of everyone.
20. Little wonder then, that Jesus disciples soon went from frightened fugitives to bold missionaries,
a. For the message of Jesus’ resurrection was a promise to them, that God was making the world the way it was supposed to be.
21. Little wonder then, that the authorities, who had tried to kill Jesus soon started killing his followers.
a. For the message of Jesus’ resurrection was a threat to every unjust ruler
b. that no matter how much injustice they were able to get away with
c. No matter how much violence they were able to commit.
d. No matter how many people they would kill
1. One day, their justice would be met with justice, their violence would be reversed with healing, and the dead they had killed would rise to life.
2. And the world will be the way we know it is supposed to be.
22. Little wonder then, that thousands and eventually millions because members of communities which would eventually be called the church,
a. For the message of Jesus resurrection was an invitation them and to us,
b. to live in communities where justice is the rule,
c. where peace is the goal,
d. and where people of every race and every language and every way of life
e. come together around one table
f. and in our glorious diversity
1. we get a foretaste of God’s kingdom,
1. happening here and now, in the church
23. And little wonder then, that, so many people like my friend, saved by angels unawares on September 11 th ,
1. could still drift away from the church,
b. that others, though they might find comfort and support,
c. find few answers to the real questions of real life here.
24. For we have allowed the resurrection to become a happy children’s story,
a. And forgotten what it truly is;
1. God’s THREAT to who practice injustice
1. that their days are numbed and that justice is coming.
2. God’s PROMISE to those who suffer injustice
1. that nothing not even death will stop them,
a. for it did not stop Jesus.
3. And God’s INVITATION to all of us to become part of that coming kingdom,
4. for at the baptismal font,
5. from the pulpit and
6. Gathered around the altar God is remaking this world through YOU.
7. And even though we cannot see each other this Easter
8. Look around this world at the millions of people still celebrating Jesus’ resurrection despite plague, sickness fear and death
9. Caring for the dying, supporting the sick, working with one another and praying for the end of this pandemic
10. Do that! See the risen body of Christ
11. and see the world the way it is supposed to be.