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Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Easter Sunday Mass
Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul
April 4, 2010
Dear Friends in the Risen Christ,
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.”
These words of Psalm 118 challenge us to joy and thanksgiving. Joy and thanksgiving are particularly appropriate today on Easter Sunday as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. With the entire Church we proclaim that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of the Virgin Mary, one who shares humanity with us, has risen from the dead.
Last night at the Vigil Mass the Church recalled the great Easter proclamation as recorded in the Gospel of St. Luke, the words of the angels to the women who came to the tomb on that first Easter Sunday morning: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.”
On this Easter morning the Church presents the testimony of two more heralds of the Resurrection, two outstanding witnesses to the greatest event in human history: St. Peter and St. Paul.
St. Peter’s words proclaimed in our First Reading this morning touch us all: “You know…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power…. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day…. To him all the prophets bear witness, saying that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”
These words of St. Peter help us to understand that the Death and Resurrection of Jesus are all about the forgiveness of sins. Christ died to save us from our sins. He rose to restore us to spanine life. In His Death and Resurrection, Jesus is our merciful Savior. Our psalm reminds us of this: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.”
In our Second Reading St. Paul spells out for us the challenges that we find in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because God is good and merciful and takes away our sins we are called to respond to His love. And so St. Paul says: “…seek what is above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too shall appear with him in glory.”
Last night, dear friends, the Church concentrated her attention on Baptism, and St. Paul explained to us how, by Baptism, we are immersed into the Death of Christ and rise with Him to new life.
The radical challenge inherent in the Easter Gospel, the radical challenge of our Baptism is all about new life. We are called to walk in newness of life and to set our hearts on God, with love for one another.
The love that inspired Jesus to lay down His life for us and to forgive us our sins, the love of the Father for Jesus, the love that inspired the Father to raise Jesus from the dead on Easter Sunday- this is the love that must inspire us to forgive one another and to serve one another.
But forgiveness and service require strength. And where does this strength come from? From the power of Christ’s Resurrection. From the One who says to us: “Once I was dead but now I live.” The Risen Christ, the living Christ, is the source of our strength, the reason for our hope, the reason for the hope of the world.
In our own City of Philadelphia and throughout the world we face innumerable problems and difficulties. And yet we are confident, for we are an Easter people and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is our hope.
We will continue to hope and work and pray for the resolution of violence in our neighborhoods, for peace in our families and on our streets, for harmony in all the strife-torn spots throughout the world. And we will strive in our hearts and consciences to be faithful to what we know is God’s holy will for us. We will remember how important it is to be part of the worshiping community of the Church on every Sunday, when we are called to celebrate together the Death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Where do we expect to get this strength? Is there any basis for our hope? Yes, dear friends: in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are an Easter people and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is our strength.
Do you remember how years ago in the former Soviet Union there was an explosion in the nuclear plant in Chernobyl? Ever since, there have been negative effects in the region and the impact of that explosion remains to this day.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ produced an explosion-an explosion more powerful and lasting than any nuclear explosion in the history of the world-not with negative effects, but unleashing forever in the world the power of Christ’s Resurrection, which is the power of God’s love and mercy.
Today we celebrate the immense power that derives from Christ’s Resurrection and has entered the world and taken possession of our hearts and minds and consciences. This power is the power to respond to God’s love, to show mercy and forgiveness to others, and to serve one another. All of this is what, through the power of Christ’s Resurrection, we are called to do with renewed fervor and commitment on this Easter Day.
The psalm, dear friends, is right: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.”
Yes, Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead! Jesus Christ is our hope, our strength, our joy on this Easter Day and always! Alleluia! Alleluia!