Tuesday, April 24, 2012

3rd Sunday of Easter - homily

I want to begin with a little Catholic trivia. This, I’m sure, is your go-to activity on Friday or Saturday nights when there’s not much going on…”Hey, let’s play Catholic trivia!” Yeah. Ok, so I’m not looking for you to say these answers out loud; you can just answer them silently. First question is from the Old Testament: in what way did God first appear to Moses? The burning bush. Second question: who wrote the Book of Revelation? St. John. I’m seeing some blank faces…! Third question is from the Gospel: who was the first person at the tomb to see the risen Lord Jesus? Mary Magdelene.

So, how did you do? Judging by the looks I’m getting, not very well. I get that a lot from Catholics when we get into things of Scripture. Now, I didn’t do this to depress you about how little of Scripture you know, but to motivate you to know it better. Also, a quote from St. Jerome that is more for your motivation than depression: “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”. Christ is the Word of God. He speaks to us throughout Scripture, not just the 33 years He walked the earth. He speaks indirectly in the Old Testament through the law, the prophets and the psalms. Then, He speaks directly in the Gospel and indirectly again in the New Testament, looking back on his direct words in the Gospel. It is Christ speaking throughout Scripture; when we know Scripture, we know Christ.

This is a theme of our readings today. In the first reading, Peter focuses on the fact that Jesus fulfilled all that was prophesied in the Old Testament. Jesus emphasizes this in the Gospel, saying that his life, death, and resurrection fulfilled what was written in the law, prophets, and psalms. It’s an unbelievable moment – this scene in the Gospel. He appears to the disciples after the resurrection, and they think he is a ghost. He looks different - as well he should – because something nuclear happened in the tomb. They are terrified when they see him, but then he calms them by wishing them peace. Then, “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Wow, can you imagine hearing Jesus teach about the Scriptures? That’s really my job in every homily, but right now there are people who are daydreaming and thinking about other things while I speak. Nice job, Father! But, I’m sure Jesus had everyone thoroughly engaged, and walked away with a clear understanding that the Scriptures spoke of Him throughout.

The big question I have for you is, do you know Christ? Not just know about Him, but KNOW HIM. St. John writes in the second reading that there are some who say, “I know him”. This is a bold statement for anyone to make. In biblical language, knowledge means experience. To say we know Christ, then, is to mean that we have had an experience with Him. It’s more than just knowing about Him like we know about famous people in history. It’s more than knowing of Him, as we do with some people in our lives. It’s more than knowing Him as an acquaintance, as if we met Him once or twice. To know Christ is to have a experience with Him…on a regular basis. It means to be in relationship with Him. How many of us know Him?

When we come to know Christ, we come to know peace and healing. At our 7:30 Healing Mass, Father Dan Leary taught us all about the peace that Jesus brings. He wishes peace on everyone He meets, especially post-resurrection. He is always wishing us peace. A bumper sticker from years ago read, “kNOw Jesus, kNOw peace”. When we know Him, we know true peace. His peace brings true healing. When people come to me hurting from a family or relationship wound and they wonder how to find healing, I want to immediately say, “Jesus Christ!” (not in vain, mind you!). He is the way to healing. He is the way to peace.

The Church gives us the model on how to know Him with the structure of the Mass. We come to know Him in Word and Sacrament. We hear Him speaking to us through Scripture…every week of our lives He is speaking to us and addressing each of us personally. As powerful and important as the Word is, it is not complete. It’s like only getting to know someone through Facebook or text messaging. It’s great to hear and read their words, but it’s so much better to have an experience with them in their presence. That’s where the Eucharist comes in. Christ comes to us in the Blessed Sacrament so that we have an experience with Him in His Real Presence. Now, Sunday Mass is awesome, of course, and we keep holy the Sabbath when we come here. But, there are a lot of distractions and it can be hard to come to know Christ through Sunday Mass alone. That’s why it’s good to review the Sunday Mass readings during the week…to hear Christ speaking to you at this time in your life. And, daily Mass is so much more intimate and less distracting to enter into a personal experience with Christ in the Eucharist.

When we have an experience with Christ, we come to know Him. When we come to know Christ, we come to know peace, healing, joy, love, and life.

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