"John saw the empty tomb and believed" (Jn 20,8).
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ: Our Christian faith stands or falls with the truth of the testimony that Christ is risen from the dead. “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ” (1 Cor. 15,14-15). With these words Saint Paul explains what faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ means for the Christian message overall: it is it’s very foundation. (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week. California: Ignatius Press, 2011, 241.)
In our preparation for the Pastoral Plan for our Parish, the Parish of St. Willibrord’s, this celebration of Easter brings us to the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection, to encounter Him in our lives urging us to renew and grow in our faith – “faith that opens our minds and hearts to respond to the Lord’s coming in our lives” (Porta Fidei, 7). Pope Benedict said that “faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy” (PF, 7). Let us ask how is this renewal and growth realized in our celebration of Easter?
First, our faith in Jesus’ Resurrection renews our minds, our perspective in life. The Apostle Peter, who promised Jesus “I will die for you” (Mt. 26,35) but later fled and denied Him three times, after Jesus’ rising from the dead, becomes a new Peter. In his speech (Acts 10, 34a.37-43), Peter finds new meaning in the life and ministry of Jesus. He proclaims Jesus not just as someone who did good works but someone doing the works of God all along – Jesus is the fulfillment of the plan of God. His perspective changed – it is now inspired by faith. When we experience the love of the risen Lord, our view of life changes. We look at life from the perspective of God, a perspective of faith.
Second, our faith in Jesus’ Resurrection renews our hearts, our treasures in life. St. Paul tells us, “We who have been baptized have been buried with Christ… We have died with Christ and also lived with Christ” (Rom. 6, 4.8). This means that through baptism, we participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus. And St. Paul admonishes, “Since you were raised with Christ, think of things above, rather than on things of earth” (Col. 3,1). We see here a moral obligation to die to the world and acquire new life – a life set on things of God. When the risen Lord lives in us, our heart is converted and its treasure becomes that of God. We become witnesses of an experience of grace and joy.
And finally, the faith of Jesus’ Resurrection leads us to see Jesus in the darkness of our lives and believe in Him. In the gospel of John we encounter Mary of Magdala, Peter, and the other disciple coming to the tomb and finding it empty. They thought that the body of Jesus was taken. But look at what happened to the other disciple upon entering the empty tomb. “He saw and believed” (Jn. 20,8). He believed in what the Scripture said about the promise of God. He believed in the words of Jesus that something will happen on the third day. He saw in the empty tomb the action of God.
In hindsight, we are not all like Mary Magdala, John and Peter who immediately believed. Pope Francis said, newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. Often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises; we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us!
Don’t be afraid to be surprised! Don’t be afraid to believe in the Risen Christ! Pope Francis said: Whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world. Every form of authentic evangelization is always “new”.
This year, with the blessing and endorsement of Most Reverend Thomas Dowd, we now officially open the start of the Parish Renewal Experience in the Archdiocese of Montreal. The Parish is so privileged and blessed to have this new program refreshing our faith; the Archdiocese has even asked us to share it with our fellow Catholics in Montreal.
Together as one Parish let us look at life and begin the new program of renewal that we will start with eyes of newness. Doing things with a heart filled with faith. See in the empty tombs of our lives – in our pains and sufferings – the living action of God and believe! And we will always rejoice in our renewed and deepened faith – faith that is founded on the Resurrection of Jesus.
Christ is risen! Alleluia! Happy Easter to all!
Rev. Fr. Gregorio Nunez
Posted on Wednesday March 25 2015
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