Sunday Homily- Fr. Luke Uebler- 4/18/21
On the first Sunday in our Easter season, Easter Morning, we heard the story of an empty tomb. If you want to go out and tell other people about Jesus’ resurrection, then this is probably not a particularly convincing story. I suppose that any number of things could have happened to Jesus’ body and in fact this is what many of Jesus’ followers at first presumed. Mary Magdalene came back to tell the disciples – they have taken him and we don’t know where they put him. Peter and the beloved disciple looked into the tomb only to find his burial cloths there. You are looking for Jesus who was crucified – he is not here, the angel proclaimed. I suppose John’s empty tomb narrative gives us something to think about: No one has seen the event of the resurrection itself and so without any conclusive evidence we must make a rather fundamental choice: do we believe that he rose from the dead or not? It certainly makes for an interesting case.
Much more convincing, I think, than an empty tomb is to have encountered Christ the Lord, risen from the dead. This brings us to today’s readings, where the disciples of Jesus have come together to recall what had taken place to them along the way. They shared their stories with each other – Mary Magdalene who thought that Jesus had been taken away by the Gardener, discovered that it was the risen Jesus himself who was tending to the Garden and taking care of his creation. As Peter and his brothers resumed their livelihood as fishermen, Jesus appeared on the shore and helped them to catch 153 large fish, and then cooked breakfast in their midst. When Thomas returned to the upper room, the rest of the disciples told him how Jesus had appeared in their midst, even though the doors were locked. As two of the disciples left Jerusalem to return home, Jesus traveled with them along the road to Emmaus, spoke to them about the meaning of the Scriptures, and made himself known to them in the breaking of the bread. And when everyone came together to share their stories of what had happened to them, how they had encountered Christ, Jesus became present to them once again. The witness of the community indeed brought forth the presence of Christ who had promised wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst; behold I am with you always. Again, there is just something to be said about the witness of the community to the resurrection of Christ.
And we have a role to play in this too, even today. Every time we recount what has happened to us, every time someone repents from evil and changes their lifestyle, every time we open up our minds and hearts to listen to God speak to us through the Scriptures and in prayer, every time we participate in the breaking of the bread around this altar table, whether it’s our first communion today or our 500th communion or even our last communion, every time new life is born to us and we celebrate baptism, every time we reach out to the outcast of society, every time we find healing, every time we support our neighbors, every time we show forth our love to the members of our family, every time we see goodness triumph or the power of grace at work in our lives – though they may be glimpses only – we truly see Christ’s resurrection at work even now. We are convinced that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. He is alive, and… and he is at work in our lives. We, the Christian faithful, are described as witnesses of these things. I am sure that God’s grace has affected each and every one of us in some manner along the way of life’s journey. No matter how ordinary we think our story is, there is extraordinary power in it, for when we encounter Christ, and tell others what has happened to us, the risen Lord comes into our midst once more, opens up our minds to understand, and gives us peace. Our witness allows us to share in the new life of his resurrection together.
Let us return to the curious case of the empty tomb of Jerusalem 2000 years ago. In a court of law, the testimony of a witness is presumed to be more reliable than circumstantial evidence. And yet, while a witness is under oath to make a truthful testimony, this process is sometimes flawed because of faulty observation or recollection or even deceit. Our second reading from the letters of St. John warns us that those who say, “I know Christ,” but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them. He implores us to be true to God’s word, to follow God’s commandments, to be a people of love so that our witness might be reliable, that people might see the risen Christ inside us. As witnesses, we are not only personally affected by the resurrection but now we have a role to play in that same story’s unfolding. Whereas the scene of the empty tomb provides only circumstantial evidence that Christ’s body is missing, an authentic witness testifies to the world and shows forth the perfection of love that God has brought about. Without a doubt, our witness should solve the case of the empty tomb. Well, the jury is out. The court would like to know. Christ reminds us today, you are witnesses of these things. What will you testify to? Let us, like the two disciples who shared their story about encountering Christ on the road to Emmaus, let us recount before others all that has taken place along the way of our lives, whether it’s what you saw at Mass today, or what you heard in the homily, or what’s going on at St. Mary’s or any of those things we mentioned earlier or whatever it is… be a faithful witness: share the good news that Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed… so that all may be convinced of the resurrection of Christ and come to share and experience for ourselves that new life he has promised.