MARCH 31, 2002- EASTER DAY: HOMILY
EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE SEEING, THEY DID NOT BELIEVE, SO GREAT WAS THEIR
EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE SEEING, THEY DID NOT BELIEVE, SO GREAT WAS THEIR JOY.Jesus had appeared to the apostles and reassured them by his words and even showed them the healed wounds of his hands and feet, but that was not enough to convince them of the reality of his resurrection. Only when he took a meal with them, partaking of the same food they did were his closest associates able to accept the witness of their senses and to put their faith in the risen Lord Jesus. That the apostles were slow to believe that the Lord who had died so painfully and seemingly so definitively deserved a rebuke from Jesus and he did not hesitate to tell them they were at fault. They had not been convinced by the witness of May Magdalene who announced to them that she had seen him with her own eyes. But they finally gave their whole-hearted acknowledgment to the signs he gave them, unlike some others who, though they saw the risen Christ continued to doubt, as St. Matthew points out (28:17).
There is no absolute proof of the mysteries of faith so convincing that we are forced to believe. Jesus implies as much when he says to Thomas who had doubted until he actually saw the Lord risen: >Because you have seen me, Thomas, you believe; blessed are those who have not seen and believe.= Our Lord speaks of belief even after seeing him; he knows we humans are capable of closing our hearts to the most obvious of realities when we have strong reasons to do so. How difficult it is for us to live in keeping with the fact that we and those we love are destined for physical death. We know it is true when we are confronted with it before our eyes, yet we go on living as if it does not have significance for us. We do not believe in it for if we did we would have to change our lives and live and love only according to God=s eternal plan.
The resurrection of Jesus that we celebrate today offers us the strength of truth and divine beauty precisely in order that we might live in its eternal light day by day. More concretely, it is the risen Lord himself, the embodiment of the surpassing beauty of divine truth, who assures us that we are made for eternal life shared with him. Death no longer has dominion over the Lord Jesus, St. Paul assures us, nor does it have the last word in defining the horizons of our life provided we put our faith in our the Savior. The Syriac version of the New Testament brings out this truth impressively by the word it uses for our Savior: !1&*(/ (machyona)[in the Aramaic script]. It means literally >the one who makes live=. This is the meaning of our Lord=s resurrection: he has become for us >the one who makes live= forever, in the glory of God.
And so as we commemorate today our Lord=s rising from the dead to enter the presence of the Father where he lives the true life of eternity we also call to mind the purpose and hope of our own life here on earth. We too are destined for glory and a fullness of life that surpasses the existence we know here on earth. Death does not have dominion over us in any definitive way. Rather it has become a passage-way to a higher and nobler life in which we discover that completeness of existence which, though we long for it here on earth, ever escapes our most strenuous efforts to realize. Here joy must always be linked to hope, for the joy we experience on earth is always limited, at least in time. Thus we rejoice in hope- a hope that one day our joy will be full and complete. And so we rejoice today for Jesus has already entered into his glory. We rejoice too for at the resurrection of our life-giver, we have a firm hope that one day our joy will be fulfilled in his presence where it will be eternal, for we will be united in him with the Father whose life and glory are without end, giving joy to those who have put their faith in him.
Abbot John Eudes