The world is different today. Something has happened that has changed our lives forever:
Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen!
We have heard of the Resurrection for so long that perhaps we do not realize what it really means. Let us explore how the Resurrection of Christ changes everything.
Perhaps you have heard this quote:
Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. — Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789
Speaking of taxes, I assume you are working on your return as it is due next week. Imagine for a moment getting a letter from the IRS. Even the idea probably makes you uncomfortable, but what if your letter said:
Dear Sir or Madame,
A generous party has paid your taxes in full. You do not have to file a return this year and your refund will be the full amount you paid in for the previous calendar year. Thanks for doing business with us.
Sincerely, The Internal Revenue Service.
Wouldn't that be amazing? You'd feel like you had won the lottery!
But this is exactly what the Resurrection of Jesus is all about. "The wages of sin is death," says Scripture, but now Jesus himself has paid our debt. He took the burden of our sins upon himself and so we are free. And because someone rose from the dead, taxes are now more certain than death itself!
This should make us stand up and take notice. During this election year, politicians will promise you everything: They'll tax someone else, they will clean up our country, get rid of foreigners, end wars, feed children, pay for your health care, give you free birth control, tell the truth... But not one of them will promise to save you from death. Only Jesus promises that, and the Resurrection proves that He can deliver on His promises.
The Secret of Jesus' Success
What was the secret to Jesus' success? It is the same as the secret that makes Christianity unique. People often say, "Well Father, you know, all religions are basically the same." That's like saying, "All people are basically the same." Yes, people have a lot in common, but each one is special and unique. The same is true of religions. While all religions have a lot in common, each one has special and unique things about it. What is it that makes Christianity special and unique?
We have picked up Jesus' habit of calling God "Father."
Jesus always calls God, "Father". He uses the Aramaic word "Abba" which means Daddy in English. It is respectful but also familiar at the same time. Perhaps the closest English word is "Pappa." Before Jesus, no Jewish person ever called God "Pappa". It would have been considered disrespectful. In contrast, there is only one time when Jesus does not call God Father: When he hangs on the cross and says, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Then he finishes by saying, "Pappa, into your hands I commend my spirit."
We Christians have picked up the habit of calling God "Father". No other religion does this. Muslims think of God as Master. Jews consider God to be Lord. Buddhist don't think God is a person who cares at all about us. Only Christians pray the Our Father. You see, Jesus wants to share his Pappa with us. When a child is baptized, he or she is adopted as a child of God.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. -- Romans 8:15-16
When we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir. -- Galatians 4:3-7
Now you can see what the Resurrection means for me and you. It means that our eldest brother, the Firstborn Son of our adopted family, has won the victory over both sin and death. Very shortly, he will be sharing that victory with each of us. We are an Easter people!
"I Do" - Do you really?
At today's Easter Mass we will shortly be renewing our Baptismal Promises. I will ask you if you reject Satan, and all his works, and all his empty show, and you will say: "I do, I do, I do." Then I will ask you if you believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and you will say, "I do, I do, I do."
What do those "I do's" remind us of?
When you stood before the altar at your wedding day, you promised to love your spouse for the rest of your life, and to let no other woman or man get in the way of that relationship. In the very same way at Baptism, you chose to be a child of the Father and to let nothing else get in the way of that relationship. This should give us great joy: We are an Easter people.
Unfortunately, most people see Catholics as the people of the eternal Lent: "We can't eat meat on Friday? Grumble, grumble. We have to follow all these rules. Sorry, I have to go to Mass on Sunday -- but maybe if I go on Saturday and it's the retired priest, I can get my obligation done in only 45 minutes and get on with my life..."
Lent is 40 days of fasting because we have not been faithful to our baptismal promises. We said, "I do," but then we didn't. We have let all kinds of other things get in the way of our relationship with God and we are sorry.
But Lent is followed by the Easter season, which is 50 days of feasting because, even though we were not faithful to God, God has still been faithful to us! He sent His Son to take away our sins and He is willing to take His children back again.
We are an Easter People, and Alleluia is our song!
Live as a Child of God
Now you know the secret to Jesus' success. It is now your responsibility to live that secret every day. Do you truly know God as "Pappa"? Do you trust Him with your life like Jesus did? Here are three things every Christian must do in order to not just say "I do", but to do it.
- Pray Daily. Talk to your Heavenly Father every day. Get to know Him, listen to Him, and be in a relationship with Him.
- Come to God's house on Sunday. Every Sunday is a little Easter. We celebrate the Resurrection and God feeds us with the Body and Blood of His Son. This is where we become strong and healthy Children of God. A Christian should never miss a Sunday meal at Pappa's house.
- Deepen that Relationship. Get rid of the things that get in the way of friendship with God. Learn more about Christ and His Church. Tell others the good news.
It takes a long time for the Good News of the Resurrection to penetrate our thick skulls and transform our lives. Yes, we still have to pay taxes, but we don't have to worry about them because we know Pappa will take care of us. Yes, our lives will still be hard, but we don't have to complain because we know we are loved and none of our sufferings are wasted. Yes, we still have to die, but our friends will meet us on the other side. Let us proclaim to the whole world, not only by our words, but most importantly by the way we live our lives:
Christ is Risen! He is Truly Risen!
(8 Apr 2012)