March 27, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Easter Sunday
Reading I (Acts 10:34a, 37-43) Reading II (Colossians 3:1-4)
Gospel (St. John 20:1-9)
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Just exactly what does this mean for us? Saint Paul said in the second reading we heard that you have been raised along with Him. You have died and you also have been raised. Now obviously the way that Our Lord is risen from the dead is substantially different from our present state. His resurrection from the dead means that His glorified human soul, along with His divinity, was reunited with His body. His body, which lay dead in the tomb for those three days, suddenly was reanimated by His soul. But His soul was no longer in the form that ours is in; His soul was now glorified. Therefore, when His soul was reunited with His body, His body was then glorified as well. And so therefore, at the moment of the Resurrection, the glorified Christ was raised to life that could never end. He was destroyed (or so Satan thought) on Good Friday, yet now He lives in a way that He can never be destroyed at all.
There is nothing lacking in His Resurrection. The fullness of His Person – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – is united in a way that can never be separated, in a life that can never be destroyed. Death has been destroyed in Him. It is true that all of us will still have to die in a physical way, but each and every one of us is also going to rise physically. That body that is sitting right there in the pew will rise from the dead. If you are in the state of grace when you die, then on the last day of the world your glorified soul will be reunited with your body, and you will live body and soul in a glorified state for the rest of eternity.
We do not even want to discuss what it is going to be like if we are not in the state of grace when we die, but for those unfortunate people, their souls also will be reunited with their bodies. Their bodies also are going to rise from the dead; and for eternity, in the fullness of their humanity, both body and soul, they will live in the horror of their choice. They have chosen to be apart from God. And they will live forever in a way which is indestructible, in a way which will never end; body and soul they will live forever separated from God in the torments of eternal fire.
But we are not called to that. We are called to the glory of God. As Saint Paul says that we are raised with Him, this is precisely what Peter and John saw when they went to the tomb of Our Lord. They noted that the cloth that was around Our Lord’s head was not with the other cloth. The cloth that was on His body was separate. What does this imply? It implies not only that the physical Person of Christ was raised from the dead, but the separation of the two cloths, the head and the body, demonstrate also the resurrection of the Mystical Christ. He is the head and we are the body of the fullness of Christ. The fullness of the Person of Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and each one of us because of our baptism is a member of Christ. Therefore, in Him we have been raised from the dead already as well, which is why Saint Paul would say when we are baptized we enter into His death and His Resurrection. So we share already in everything that is Jesus Christ. We share His Passion, we share His death, and we also share in His Resurrection to new and eternal life. Therefore, Saint Paul tells us that we are to set our sights on what is above and not on what is below, that we are to be living our lives for heaven and not for earth.
Never has there been a more difficult time in human history to be able to fulfill that precept. There is so much of earth – and even more that is from below the earth – that is tugging at us every place we turn. Satan wants us to be with him. Our Lord wants us to be in heaven with Him. The choice then is entirely ours. But we have all these things of the senses that are pulling at us, all of the images, all of the sounds, all of the things that are being presented to us every place we turn. On the other hand, we have the glorified Christ. Now we can each make a choice, and we have to. Which way do you want to go? Where do you want to set your sights? Where is your focus going to be?
Remember that we make the choice of eternity in this life and not in the next. So if we want to choose the sensuality of the world, we are choosing the corruption of the body, and our corrupt bodies and our corrupt souls will then live forever apart from God. But if we put our focus on Christ risen from the dead, Christ for Whom death has no more power and therefore for those who die in Christ death has no power over them either, then we will be like Him. Saint John says that what we will be like we do not know, but what we do know is that we will be like Him, for we will see Him face-to-face.
And so as we meditate upon this mystery of Jesus Christ risen from the dead, we need to ask ourselves, “What does it mean for me?” It means that what is being offered to you is life, eternal life. The life of God, the life of heaven is being offered to each and every one of us. We have entered into that life already through baptism. In just a couple of moments, we are going to renew our baptismal vows where once again we are going to say that we reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises. We are going to renew our faith in God. Are we truly doing what we have vowed to God? Are we really rejecting Satan? all of his works? all of his empty promises? all of his filth and sensuality that he is presenting to us? Are we living in this world with our focus set on heaven? Are we living as people who have risen from the dead? Or are we the “living dead”? the people who walk in mortal sin? the people who have taken their focus off of God? This day sin has been destroyed. As we heard in the Alleluia verse, our Paschal Lamb has been sacrificed and therefore we are to celebrate with joy.
When we think about the tragedy of death and we see the innocent, our Paschal Lamb, dying for us, the natural human response would be one of grief and sorrow; but the Church tells us that we are to rejoice because our Paschal Lamb has been sacrificed so that we could live, and He is risen from the dead. For all of us who have eaten His flesh and consumed His blood, the risen and glorified Christ lives in us. When you, just a few moments from now, come forward to the communion rail and you receive Jesus into your own body, you receive Him in the form in which He presently is, that is, in His glorified form, risen from the dead and glorified and seated at God’s right hand. You are already there with Him spiritually, and there He is going to come to dwell within you. Again, it speaks of our dignity that our souls are heaven. Our souls are the temples that God has created for Himself so that in His glorified humanity He comes to dwell. He is enthroned in the soul of each and every one of us who receive Holy Communion. The risen and glorified Christ lives in us. This is our glory.
So we see, if that is the case, that for all of those who are in the state of grace death has no power. None. We will have to enter into death in order to be able to experience the fullness of life, but death has no power over those who are in Jesus Christ. Right now our nation mourns because as a nation once again we have chosen to allow the innocent and the helpless to die. Right now an innocent woman in Florida is dying by the choice of our imperial courts as they try to “play god” and make choices of life and death. Yet as horrible and tragic as this decision is – and we will pay the consequences as a country for this – as Christian people, as Catholic people, we can look forward to be able to see that this poor woman is sharing in the Passion of Christ. But the expectation is that she may well die this very day, the day of the Resurrection. I trust that Our Lord, as He did with Dismas, is looking right now at Terri Schiavo and saying, This day you will be with Me in Paradise.
It is a sad day for our country. It is a glorious day for the innocent woman who is being put to death because she lived a holy and spiritual life before she entered into this state. She chose to live according to the ways of Christ, and she is dying with Him so that she will rise with Him forever. That poor little body which has been deprived of food and water, and is now deformed terribly, will rise gloriously to be with Him forever. And so will we if we make the choice for Christ.
So as we celebrate today the single holiest and most important thing of the entire Church year, the highest feast that the Church has to celebrate, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, meditate upon the fact that you, as a member of Jesus Christ, have been raised with Him and that you are no longer to be living according to the ways of death, to the ways of sin, to the ways that Satan has presented to us, saying, “It’s fun and it’s pleasurable and it’s easy.” Those are the works of death. In about one minute, you are going to say once again that you reject the works of death, that you reject the works of Satan. Put off the old man and put on the new, the new man who is truly in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Live even now in this world with your focus on heaven. Live in this world free of sin, so that you who have been put to death with Christ in baptism are also one with Him in His new life, in the life of glory, in the life of the Resurrection, in the life over which death has absolutely no power.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.