Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the Second Week of Easter

For these Sundays after Easter I’d like to so something similar to what I did for the Sundays of Lent. There we looked at the various meanings of the sacrament of Baptism and what it produces in our lives; for these Sundays I would like to delve into the multiple meanings in the Resurrection story (the Paschal Mystery). The placing of the Paschal Mystery at the very heart of Catholic Christian faith was one of the greatest achievements of the Second Vatican Council. However, it will take decades and even longer for the full fruit of this teaching to reach the parish pews and allow ordinary believers to assimilate it into their lives of faith. The Resurrection-theme we want to look at today is: the Resurrection of Jesus is a new act of God. It is an emphasis on God's saving action. The same God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt, who gave them the Torah on Mt. Sinai, who led them into the promised land, who led them back from Exile....this God has performed another great saving action--to raise Jesus from the dead. The Resurrection is a new creative act from the great mystery of all things.

We so easily see Jesus as the central figure in the Resurrection and indeed the later texts of the New Testament even allude to Jesus raising himself with his own powers. But those texts are assuming a growing assertion by Christians of the divine power in Jesus. That same view is also reflected in a lot of our liturgical texts: "Dying he destroyed our death, rising he restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory." But the oldest New Testament kerygma of the Resurrection clearly name it as an "act of God." "Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you with deeds of power, wonder and crucified and killed....But God raised him up, having freed him from death." (Acts 2:22-23) "This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses." (Acts 2:32) Very clearly, one of the most significant meanings of the Resurrection is that it was (and is) a saving action of God in our world!

So, to be a modern believer in the Resurrection of Jesus we need to believe in God’s action in our world. One of the issues we face then is asking ourselves: where EXACTLY do we believe that God "acts" in this world we live in? Let’s not fool ourselves; we live in a modern secular culture which makes it very difficult to believe in a divine, supernatural action in everyday life. Two examples. One is from a fictional television show, where a police detective is interviewing a suspect in a religious murder. He asks the man, who is a scientist: "Do you believe in God?" The man responds: "I take the only reasonable position that any sane individual would take: I’m an agnostic." Let’s take a real example. Last Wednesday evening after we finished the Eucharist at the University of Indianapolis, I heard two of the students talking. One was thinking out loud: "Do you think it’s possible that we would ever find the burial place of Jesus?" The other responded: "Well, if we do, it would be empty." The other responded: "Well, of course, the remains would have disintegrated." The other replied: "No, that was the body that was raised up." The first responded: "Do you think God can go against the laws of nature?" The second replied: "Why not? He made them in the first place." We live in a culture and climate of doubt. The issue here is not just believing in God, but in believing in God’s real action in our world.

The question facing each of us is: where exactly do I believe that God acts in my world? If I pray for courage to face an operation, and it turns out that I have the courage needed, do I believe that God gave that to me? We pray for a lot of things in our daily Prayers of the Faithful. Do we believe that it’s really God’s action that we are asking for. To affirm a belief in the Resurrection of Jesus each Easter season is to challenge us to ponder these questions more closely.

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