An excerpt from a shorter one… and a full one. Happy Easter time!
FIRST MESSAGE: WHO WILL ROLL BACK THE STONE FOR US?
That was the question that gnawed at the three women as they made their way through the early morning darkness to the tomb where the body of Jesus had been laid late Frida afternoon. They were bringing spices to anoint the corpse and give him a decent burial. They knew what needed to be done; it was not pleasant work, but they had done it before. Before there were funeral directors, preparation for burial took place at home. But who would roll back the stone, the huge stone, from the entrance to the tomb for them? When they reached the tomb, however, the women discovered to their surprise that the problem that had worried them had been resolved. The stone had already been rolled back, but the body they had come to anoint was not there. Instead, a young man in white announced to them, “He has been raised up; he is not here.” And he gave the startled women a new charge, one that they had not anticipated or bargained on: “Go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” This was not something they had planned or prepared for when they went to the tomb that morning. They knew how to bury the dead and had been willing to do it. But they were not prepared to proclaim that the dead had been raised. Who would believe them? They could hardly believe it themselves. So they fled from the tomb and said nothing.
This morning, like those three women long ago, you and I have come to the tomb where Jesus was buried. And, like them, we come wondering, “Who will roll back the stone for us?” But for us, the stone that bars our access to the tomb is not a massive slab of rock but the debris of centuries and the baggage of our own pasts. Who will sweep away the dust and debris of nearly 2,000 years of history that blocks our way to the Jesus who lived and loved, suffered and died? Who will roll away the residue of headaches and heartaches, tragedies and traumas, disappointment and dashed dreams that blocks our way to faith and hope in a future for our world and in a future for ourselves? Who will tear down the barriers our hard-headedness and hard-heartedness have erected; who will level the mountains our resentments, fears and self-pity have made out of molehills and that stand between us and abundant life? Who will roll these stones away for us?
As we come to the tomb this Easter morning, these stones have been rolled away and a man in white tells us: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He is not here; he has been raised.” The message of Easter morning is: God did not abandon the crucified corpse of Jesus to dusty death. Failure has given birth to triumph; tragedy to hope; death to life. We have heard that message before, of course. But, like the women who went to the tomb long ago, we are more prepared to mourn the dead than to proclaim new life, more prone to dwell in the past than to hope for the future, more familiar with preparing corpses for burial than with recognizing the stirrings of life. And so, like the women long ago, we have, year after year, fled from the tomb and said nothing. And because we have said nothing, we have remained frightened, flummoxed people. But today, the Gospel asks us once again to take up a new and unfamiliar challenge of carrying the message of resurrection from our own empty tombs, the challenge of living as if we really believed this great hope we proclaim, the challenge of bringing light and hope to those who still dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. The stone has been rolled away. Are we ready for the challenge of new life? There is an Easter faith to be lived—rebirth, renewal, proclamation—Jesus is alive in me. Jesus is alive in us. Spirit of God, help us experience our new life in Jesus!
Believe upon the Lord Jesus, Lamb of God, Who is the Love of Heaven for us.
SECOND MESSAGE; WHAT KIND OF FOOL AM I?
Easter 2018 has the rare occasion to fall on April Fool’s Day. It doesn’t happen so much, of April 1st and Easter being together. No joke. You have to go back to 60 years ago for the last time when Easter and April Fool’s Day were on the same day, and it won’t happen again until 2029. ‘
With the irony and timing of this pairing, of Easter on April First— I feel impelled to deliver a homily on it, on the types of fools that are out there. Of fools—I might divide them into two basic grouping—the good kind of ones (which I will tell you about—and their connection to Easter, and faith in Jesus Christ), and the many bad kind of fools in humanity—defined as the ones who God and His Word does call fools. The worst fool is the one of whom God calls a fool. Indeed.
From a hit Broadway Musical song from “Stop the World I Want to Get Off,” you might muse here: What Kind of Fool Am I?.
Fortunately, there is a third but temporary category of a fool—those of the silly one-timer April Fool pranksters or their gullible victims. That kind of fool it could be ok to be, at least for a day—right?! April Fool’s Day has been going on for about as long as Easter has been observed—even to the Roman Empire times. This secular day was set aside for frivolity and pranks, as marking the happy turning point for Spring. It created an occasion for a one day fool or foolishness. Can you remember any April First prank which was pulled on you or that you pulled off on someone? Does it bring back a memory and a smile?
I can remember one. It was way back when I was a teenager on an overnight middle-school trip to Gettysburg. We three motel roommates woke up, and pulled a trick on the fourth student, named John Kevin—deep gone in his sleep. We got up quietly, changed the clocks, and made it all look and seem like it was 9 a.m., and then we woke up John Kevin in an alarming way, saying he overslept breakfast and check-out, and that the boarding school bus was waiting on him. John Kevin woke up and scrambled his way dressed and packed, and opened the motel door to see complete 3 a.m. darkness on the other side!! We had really pulled a trick on him! April Fools! He probably still remembers being our April Fool of that year. But he got over it. It was a silly, fun prank for a moment. No harm, no foul– really. A fun-loving joke from his buddies—which he actually liked the fond attention of it. In my own memory, I can’t recall the Gettysburg Battlefield sight-seeing that day, but I surely remember that April Fool kind-of-joke in its morning.
There are many poems and songs out there on fools or foolishness. In recent times, Mary J. Blige or Mel’isa Morgan sang of a “Fool’s Paradise” about a guy who runs away from true love to live in his fantasy ways—in his foolish, irresponsible existence. In the song’s message, the singer’s voice is of the woman waiting for him to wise up and come to the love she still wills to share with him. But for now, he’s in a Fool’s Paradise. She is hoping he is only a temporary fool, too.
What does God hope for us? He hopes we won’t play the fool in our choice to remain aloof or distant from Him and His Redeeming Love. He hopes we won’t fall in lust of the fool’s good of mere worldliness, all when He has offered us His Heart and friendship with God again and the open invitation to His kingdom life.
Who do we trust? God? Or self, and the self-serving world apart from Him? How do we measure up? One ought to be real careful about this ultimate consideration. Not to be foolish or foolhardy or even taken by the devil. Be alert!
The worse kind of fool is the one whom God calls the fool. In a parable of Jesus, of a lesson on storing up only worldly treasures and in dissing God, His Word is: “Fool! This very night your life will be gone from you. You will die and end up with nothing.” That’s a bad thing to hear Jesus saying of you. Yet He came to save us from that. God did not want us to die the fool. So He came to show His very existence to us, so we’d believe. In a Proverb about foolishness, it says: “The fool says there is no God.” In the related message of Psalm 14, named “The Folly of the Godless,” God comments in His word: The fool says in their own heart, ‘there is no God.” They are a corrupted person in need of a change! Yet see how the Lord looks down from heaven on the children of men, to see if there are any who will try to understand His Reality, who will seek after God?!” Yes. Hear that message of Psalm 14: God seeks to save us from our own folly. Thus, on this merging of Easter to April Fool’s Day—God would like His Salvific New Life to win over our foolishness. Where do you stand with that, really?! What definite choice does our actions and priorities and heart attractions say of us?
Certainly, God may call people fools, by His Word, but He doesn’t want us to stay there. He sees our struggle with sin and the fall from grace. He has mercy on us over that. So, He comes at Easter, out of a tomb, to invite people out of their grave situation as fools. God doesn’t condemn in His coming as Son, but He comes to save. Is our life’s testimony a call for the Savior and Lord Jesus Christ to lead us to wisdom. “The fear/reverence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” says the Bible.
I spoke of two kinds of fools in life. We just talked of the first kind….
The other kind of fool one can be is the “Fool for Christ’ sake.” We take this description from St. Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth. He says that his living passionately for the Gospel and for Christ Jesus has him called a fool by the world. He says that He’ll take the title! Paraphrasing him, Paul says:”’ …Well, then, me and those other leaders and followers in the Way of the Lord Jesus—we are all then “fools for Christ’ sake! I’m glad for the title.” In First Corinthians chapter 4, he comments: ’I’d take the foolishness of God any day to the so-called wisdom of the independent sinful world.’ We are called to follow Him, in all faith, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
In his 1st Corinthians letter, Paul describes how there is the spiritual person, who really is no fool, and then there is the carnal person, whose folly is how they merely live just to the flesh and the temporal, when there is otherwise so much more available to them! Paul asks in his epistle: ‘If God offers us freedom from ourselves, and gives us all available help for us to get free from the web of sin of sheer carnal pleasures, those that do separate us from God and true love… If God does all that, and we still keep turned from it: Who’s the fool there? To choose versus love and redemption?!
Jesus said: I am the Way, The Truth and the Life— no one comes to the Father, but by Me. That’s the offer—to come to Him, out of one’s folly.
So maybe, like in the Broadway show song, we ultimately have to ask ourselves: What kind of fool am I?
How about being God’s fool?! Rather than being the fool in the world on their own.
To be God’s own fool is to be in good company with the saints. Many have dubbed themselves as “fools for Christ’ sake.” People like St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, and a whole lot of Franciscans after them.
So let us contrast April Fool’s Day to Easter. Easter is a blessed day, and even a first day of the greater season, as well as a Feast remembered by Catholics as The Huge Event in history. Easter is about the change of the world to new life in Christ. It’s a Day that promises Christ forever to us. No kidding. God really loves us and has a Gift of Eternal Life in His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus comes out of the grave on this day in history to tell us about it. As He lives, so may we! In love. In victory. In community with God. Alleluia!
In the contrast, again—as on the receiving end, an April Fool is a person who falls for the prank, but a fool who believes not in God (after much effort of God’s part to love us back)—they are ones who have fallen for the worse trick, with their eternal souls on the line.
An Easter believer is one who believes in Jesus, and the amazing grace (not a trick) of His saving our lives, and how the Savior and Redeemer made it possible for us to receive God’s eternal love to our souls, for even Jesus to live inside our souls.
It’s no trick, but maybe the greatest trade ever, of new lives for old, slavery to sin and death for freedom, emptiness for fulfillment. Oh, what a trade! Oh what joy on Easter Day and its ongoing Reality of Jesus Alive! Oh what He does for us! Oh happy day, oh happy new life! On this Easter, the angels and saints join in to the believers on earth, to sing: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!