April 17, 2022

Deacon Tim Papa Homily
Do We Really Understand What Changed?

Easter Sunday The Resurrection of the Lord

Acts 10:34, 37-43; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; John 20:1-9

Everyone likes a good “whodunit.” Detective mysteries have been one of the best selling books going back centuries. People just can’t seem to get enough of this genre. I don’t know how many of the shows on television are some sort of drama around trying to solve some mystery. But truth be told, most people are horrible at figuring mysteries out. The main problem is what the psychologists call confirmation bias, where people bring their own preconceptions to bear in a situation and don’t fairly evaluation the evidence, but instead look for things that agree with their pet theories. They jump to conclusions, which are often inaccurate.

We have what could be considered an example in today’s Gospel. Confronted with an empty tomb, what are the reactions of the disciples? Mary of Magdala initially concludes what? That the body of Jesus has been stolen. Yes, of course that is one possible explanation that might fit the initial facts seen on Easter morning, and is one that will end up being the explanation of the Jewish leaders who don’t want to believe, who don’t want to accept that the world has fundamentally changed overnight. Mary Magdalene – who was very close to Jesus and all his other disciples and was cured of demons by Jesus, has heard all of his teachings that he will return on the third day – even she still at first doesn't understand this. Not because she doesn't want to – no, it is because she cannot yet open her mind to understanding God's plan.

Simon Peter, likewise, doesn't yet understand it. He stands there agape, not comprehending. And neither does the other disciple, the one who is only identified as the one that Jesus loved, whom most believe is John, although it says that he “saw and believed” [John 20:8 NABRE], indicating that he was just beginning to understand. But the others, not yet, for the Gospel then immediately tells us that, “they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead” [John 20:9 NABRE].

In next week's Gospel, we will see an even more stark example, where Thomas will refuse to believe those that had seen the risen Lord for themselves. He will tell everyone that – well, I'll paraphrase: “Yeah, yeah, yeah: I don't know what you saw, but y'all don't seem to know how this thing we call life works – you die, it's done, it's over, that's it.” Of course, he will have Jesus come back the following week to confront his disbelief, allowing him to truly understand what is the important message of this day, the one that was put on the front of our church bulletin: “And then everything changed.”

We here gathered together don't have this problem as a rule. Being exposed to this sacred mystery from an early age by both our families and the Church, we generally understand the idea of the resurrection and believe that it really did occur. But do we really understand all of its implications in our lives? Sometimes converts to a religion are some of the most passionate about their beliefs, because they have thought about them fresh, and have made a conscientious decision to overcome their confirmation bias, their tendency to sort ideas into neat little boxes and move on with one's life. This is why the Church demands that all Christians undergo continual conversion. We just finished the forty days of Lent, what is to be preparation and examination of our relationship with God and one another. Has our confirmation bias led us to conclude that all is right with our world? Have we listened to Jesus calling us to draw ever closer to him? Have we fallen into a trap something like Thomas: “Yeah, yeah, he died, he rose, we're saved, it's done, that's it, move on”?

Today is a day of great joy. We should take a moment to celebrate the redemption that our Savior has given to us. And after this celebration, let us show that world that we are an Easter people, a people who are saved and who shine the light of that salvation upon the world around us. Let us bring the peace of Christ to those in conflict, especially those in Ukraine and Russia. Let us give the mercy of Christ to those in need, both material needs as well as those that struggle psychologically, especially given the brutal effects that this pandemic has had on some. Let us resolve to continue our conversion as we gradually develop a greater understanding of Christ's mission, and live up to our Christian baptism and follow the words from the second reading: “let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” [1 Cor 5:8 NABRE].

As we continue with the Liturgy of the Eucharist, let us pray that this communion service will bring us all together as one community, one Easter people, one Body of Christ. On behalf of Father Oscar and all of the staff of Saint James, and all of the many lay ministers who volunteer throughout the year and witness to their Christian faith and service to our Lord, I wish you and all your families great joy as you celebrate this most blessed Easter.


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