“You know what has happened – we are witnesses – they put Jesus to death by hanging him on a tree and God raised him on the third day.”  Words from our first reading this morning from the 10th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you this Easter his peace and his joy.

The Feast of Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, is the central feast of the Church.  It is God’s definitive answer to the troubles of this world and of death itself.  Nothing is stronger nor more powerful than He.  Through the Resurrection, God has conquered both sin and death.  He has triumphed through it all.  Let this be our refrain throughout the Easter Season: CHRIST IS RISEN… HE IS RISEN INDEED!  Yet, at times, there seems no lack of despair in our world, as if this profound truth were not enough for us.  Looking about, we cannot deny what we see: moral weakness, physical illness, natural disasters, conflict, hatred, paradox, contradiction, war, a list of problems that goes on and on and on.  When will it end?

Of themselves, these things rob us of our peace and we can fall under their weight.  Because of these things we can become distracted and lose our way, and fall into despair.  In response to these difficulties, many people have decided to withdraw from daily life, burying their head in the sand as it were.  Many others pretend that all is well and good and so carry on in their ways without regard to the great hurt they may still be carrying or even causing.  Still, many have become angry, bitter, and cynical, assuming a cold indifference toward everyone and everything, caring only for themselves.  Among many young people, there has been a choice to participate in artificial and selfish behaviors, believing in vain that these vanities would relieve their anxiety and that they would find true happiness.  We know from the Scriptures that following the death of Jesus the Apostles themselves went into hiding because they too were anxious and afraid, lost and broken.

But amid the troubles of this world there is another way that offers hope and not despair, peace and not anxiety.  As simple as it sounds, there is no truth more profound than this: we can always place our trust and faith in God because through the resurrection, he has revealed that no power of this world can stop him.  This Lent, many people made the courageous choice to turn to God in their troubles for the hope and peace that God alone can bring.  They took a step forward in faith.  They put their trust in God.  Throughout the season of Lent, I watched our crosses in the sanctuary fill up with the prayer intentions of people’s hearts as they united their sufferings to Jesus’s suffering on the cross.  

There were blocks placed in the cross with prayer intentions for:  Peace in the world and in Ukraine, to find a good life, for a love without judgment, for personal renewal, for forgiveness, for moving on, to let go of anger and hurt and bitterness, to be free from gambling, stealing, cursing, and sin, to stop judging others, for patience with sisters, for accepting hardships, for getting through a situation, for being nicer to people and sharing, for acceptance; there were prayers for job concerns, for finances, for finding sleep a goodnight’s sleep, for working through someone’s will; there were prayers for those alienated from the church, for those who left the faith, for conversion, for being reunited, and for reconciliation within the family; there were prayers to know God’s will, for direction, for deliverance, prayers of trust, of thankfulness for blessings, prayers for the church, for belief, for vocations; there were prayers for healing of addictions, from alcohol, from of mental illness, healing for cancer, for a stroke, for my baby, for healthy family; there were prayers for my family, for my children, for our elders, for the Flemings, Casilios, for Marlene, for Chris’s heart, for strength for Natalie, for my friend Joy, for Marie, Bonnie, and Beth, for my aunt, for my son Brian for papa and mommy, for Nana, for Fluffy the cat, for those with no one to pray for them, for us all.  And we know of course, there are many things that remain unsaid, that there are many things more in our hearts that we continue to carry around.  All of these things aren’t just out there in the world, these are our own concerns and things on the mind and heart of our community.  Maybe here we say, “For these things, let us pray to the Lord.  Lord hear our prayer.” 

And that’s the whole idea – that the Lord has heard our prayer, God knows the plight of his people, and has come among us to love us through these things, just as he loved his own dear son through the experience of death to life.  Because even when all hope seems lost, we know that the story, our story, doesn’t end on Good Friday but rather the story is only just beginning, and truly begins this Easter day.  Peter proceeded to say: “You know what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee… how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth, with the Holy Spirit and power.  He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed, for God was with him.  They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.  This man God raised on the third day… and everyone who believes in him will receive mercy through his name.”  On this Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, I ask all of us to be renewed in our belief and to be assured in our hearts that the only true and authentic answer to the most profound and difficult questions of life must always begin with the Risen Jesus Christ.  CHRIST IS RISEN… HE IS RISEN INDEED.  Let Jesus say to you what he said to his disciples that first Easter Sunday and what he has said throughout all of time:  Peace be with you.  It is I. Do not be afraid! Amen.