Saturday, April 15, 2017

April 16, 2017: Easter Sunday A

April 16, 2017: Easter Sunday A

Click to hear Audio Homily
Do you ever go back to the church where you were baptized? Does your place of baptism have any meaning for you? The church building where I was baptized when I was six-years old in South Korea no longer exists. Although I still have a photo of the priest pouring water on my forehead, I vaguely remember what happened.

Sometime ago I made a private pilgrimage to Wadowice, Poland, the birthplace of St. John Paul II (also known by his given name Karol Wojtyla.)  There is a beautiful museum built on the site of his family home that displays in great detail the history, culture, and the life of the saint. Next to his childhood home is the Basilica of the Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary. In a side chapel in the basilica is the baptismal font where St. John Paul II was baptized. In 1979 during his first pilgrimage to Poland, then-Pope John Paul II stated: “In this baptismal font, on 20 June 1920, I was given the grace to become a son of God, together with faith in my Redeemer, and I was welcomed into the community of the Church” Besides his baptism, there were other significant events in his life celebrated in that church. Pope John Paul said, “In this church I made my first Confession and received my first Holy Communion. Here I was an altar boy.  Here I gave thanks to God for the gift of the priesthood and, as Archbishop of Krak√≥w, I celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood.  God alone, the giver of every grace, knows what goodness and what manifold graces I received from this church and from this parish community. To him, the Triune God, I give glory today at the doors of this church.”

What is the connection between the Easter celebration and our baptism? St. Basil explained:
All of us imitate Christ’s death by being buried with him in baptism. If we ask what this kind of burial means and what benefit we may hope to derive from it, it means first of all making a complete break with our former way of life, and our Lord himself said that this cannot be done unless a man is born again. In other words, we have to begin a new life, and we cannot do so until our previous life has been brought to an end. When runners reach the turning point on a racecourse, they have to pause briefly before they can go back in the opposite direction. So also when we wish to reverse the direction of our lives there must be a pause, or a death, to mark the end of one life and the beginning of another. Our descent into hell takes place when we imitate the burial of Christ by our baptism. The bodies of the baptized are in a sense buried in the water as a symbol of their renunciation of the sins of their unregenerate nature. We receive saving baptism only once because there was only one death and one resurrection for the salvation of the world, and baptism is its symbol.

The women in the gospel witnessed the empty tomb and were transformed into believers after hearing the message of the angel, “He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.” Here we are 2000 years later, and should we not be in awe of the event? It’s not just a story that we read over and over, but an actual event that we should ponder and encounter each time we celebrate. Some may feel that they’re here today out of obligation. Yet, if we really look into our hearts, the Holy Spirit who was sealed inside us at baptism has invited us back to the place where it all began. We are here out of love for the God who loved us first and gave himself for us to open the gates of heaven. We are here because we stand together to confess, proclaim, and celebrate that Jesus is alive, that Christ has risen, that Christ has triumphed over death and over every experience of evil in the world.

St. Gianna Molla said, “Where else can we find a God who loves us so much that He came to share in our lives day by day, minute by minute?” So we must not hide our hope. As Our Lord said to us, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 14-16) If the empty tomb gave so much hope and encouragement for the disciples 2,000 years ago, we too should not hold ourselves back in fear, laziness, or indifference in proclaiming who Jesus is for us and who Jesus is for the world.

While the world is locked behind the heavy stone of fear and selfishness, we, the ordinary men and women of faith, proclaim with boldness that there is no evil that Christ has not conquered. We are commissioned by God to the difficult yet uplifting task of building a civilization of love. May the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, stir in us the desire to do something great for the world, refusing to allow ourselves to be limited by mediocrity. Happy Easter!