Given at Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament
For myself and the rector of the cathedral, Fr. Mech, his Associate Fr. Gonyeau, all of us who are part of the Cathedral parish, a very Blessed Easter to all of you who are also part of our parish. For the Cathedral is the second home of everybody in the Archdiocese and so, what a blessing we can all be here today to celebrate Christ's passover, his victory, from his passion to his death to his rising.
In meditating on the scriptures appointed for Easter, I was particularly struck, my attention was captured, by Mary Magdalene, because I see in some way that we owe our very being here to St. Mary because she is the first witness of the Lord's resurrection. what we celebrate, she testified to. And she began that link of witnesses that comes in the Church, even to our own day.
In the Gospel today, there is only a brief mention of Mary finding the tomb empty. In St. Matthew's Gospel last night, it was much more detailed and it's actually recounted for us in the sequence that the choir just sang. "Tell us Mary, what did you see when you were on the way, the way to the tomb?" And in the poem it says, and has Mary say: â€œI saw the sepulcher of the living Christ, I saw the glory of the risen Christ, I saw the angels, I saw the shroud and the garments. And so, as the poem says, she's testified that Christ is risen.
And not only did she see the evidence of the resurrection, the angel, the stone moved away, but the evangelists tell us, she saw Jesus himself. She touched him, as a matter of fact. All that way assuring herself that it was not a ghost, but the one she loved. Perhaps it was a particular grace given to her out of the Lord's affection for her. Because it's very clear in all the Gospels that she was so much the most faithful one. When all of the apostles, except the beloved disciple, had abandoned our Lord, it was Mary Magdalene who had the guts to go to Golgotha and stand there and endure whatever kind of catcalls we could be sure the crowd and the soldiers would have heaped upon her for her love for Jesus, for her lord.
She showed this love to the end, responding to our Lord's love, by participating in his burial. In marking the grave, she knew where she had laid him. And so after the sabbath was done, she was up early in the morning to do the duty of the mourner, to complete the burial customs. She wasn't afraid. Maybe she was a bit afraid. But her love overcame whatever fear there might have been and so she was the first and she testified and then she went to the other apostles and so especially in the Greek Church, Mary Magdalene is called the apostle to the apostles. The one who was sent to all those who would in turn be sent. That's what Jesus told her to do. Go tell the apostles, by disciples, by brothers to go to Galilee and there the will see me and I will send them to be witnesses.
And this witness, this testimony, it's not a myth. Some people try to turn it into a story, a fairy tale, an allegory: "oh see the human cause is unbreakable, there's something really worthwhile, we all have to hold on to hope." As if the resurrection were a story we told to children to get them through their teething. This testimony begins with Mary Magadalene and it continues in the Church today. And it's the truth. It's a truth for which in every age, Christians have laid down their lives, spent their live either in a dramatic martyrdom like St. Maximilian Kolbe, or a day in and day out self-sacrifice like Mother Theresa.
The witness continues even to today. This witness is what we have responded to, we have heard this message, this Good News. And in our hearts, the Holy Spirits has born witness as well internally to us and so, we have understood that the Gospel that Jesus Christ died and rose is worth listening to. It's something we should pay attention to.
And then, the Holy Spirit helps us understand that it makes sense. This is a way, the way, for God to put things right and to conquer the death that was introduced into the world through sin. And then finally we come to a moment where the Holy Spirit witnesses to our hearts and moves us to believe that nothing else really does make sense. That if Jesus Christ is not risen, then as we sing at the Easter Vigil, what good would life have been to us? Better that we had never been born had there not been the resurrection of Jesus. But Christ is risen! And you and I, we are the people who say this is the sense of my life. This is why I have been baptized. Why I continue to live in the Church, because it is only by dying with Jesus that I have any chance of living according to the destiny marked out for me by God my Father.
We confess that the stone rejected by the builder has indeed become the cornerstone. And as we sing in the psalm, it is marvelous in our eyes. We believe that Jesus is our passover. He was foreshadowed by all of the events of the old covenant. And we believe that by living out in our lives, death - death to ourselves and our selfishness - that we will live forever.
Look at your hand. With this hand, I will touch Jesus Christ someday. With these eyes, I will see my redeemer, because Christ is risen.
Today, is above all a day for rejoicing. Whatever joy the Holy Spirit stirs up in our hearts as he makes real your conviction that Christ did not rot in that tomb, but in the flesh, in the body by which he hung upon the Cross, he now is filled with glory.
Maybe it's joy that comes from knowing that your parents that you lost long ago and whom you miss so very much, you will see them again. Maybe it's joy in knowing that that little baby who died much too soon, and whom you continue to mourn, is safe in the hands of the risen Jesus. And you will see that child and share with that child joy beyond whatever you could have imagined. Maybe it's the joy that comes from knowing that in the rising of Jesus Christ all sin is conquered. And so, you don't have to carry around the baggage of some terrible thing that in a moment of weakness you did or committed. But that in the resurrection of Christ, even our sins, the wounds we have inflicted upon ourselves and upon other people, are transformed into something that gives God glory, by the power of the resurrection.
That's why the liturgy today is filled with alleluias, and a summons, each to the other, that we should rejoice. Because not only do we at the liturgy remember that Jesus has conquered death and is risen, but he is in our midst, under the appearances of bread and wine, the same spirit that descended on the sepulcher just before dawn on the first day of the week, comes down on your dead gifts of bread and wine and makes them the living sacrifice and presence of the risen Christ. And so when we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we will be raised up on the last day, so we rejoice especially in this time, when all of us in the Church in the Archdiocese of Detroit are committed to unleashing the Gospel. Let us recommit ourselves to being witnesses of this great Good News. Certainly by the way we live. Let us provoke questions in our neighbor. How is she able to endure that chemotherapy? How is he able to take care of his wife who has dementia with such serenity? Let us witness to Christ in His resurrection. But lest us also make a commitment to speak of Christ.
This is why Jesus thought it was worth dying, so the world would know life. And we have a choice, we can be instruments to share that life, to spread the Good News, to help our family members and our neighbors know deliverance from sin and death, and oughtn't we to take every opportunity? We owe it to our neighbors and our friends and our relatives. We owe it to Jesus? How can we hold this pearl of great price only for ourselves? The kingdom is begun. The end of the world is already started. Christ's victory has commenced. Let us do all in our power to hasten the day when the whole world as it says in the Book of Revelation: "Looks on them whom they have pierced and see that he is glorious with the love and glory of his Father."
This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Christ is risen! He has indeed risen. He has appeared to Simon.