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Monsignor Yennock's Easter Sunday Homily 2019

Apr 22, 2019

EASTER 2019

APRIL 21, 2019

THERE IS AN EASTER SUNRISE SERVICE THAT TAKES PLACE AT THE EDGE OF THE GRAND CANYON. SOMEONE READS THE SCRIPTURE PASSAGE: “AND AN ANGEL OF THE LORD DESCENDED FROM HEAVEN AND ROLLED BACK THE STONE” SUDDENLY A GIANT BOULDER IS HEAVED OVER THE RIM OF THE CANYON. AS THE BOULDER GOES CRASHING DOWN THE SIDE OF THE GRAND CANYON INTO THE COLORADO RIVER BELOW A TWO THOUSAND VOICE CHOIR BURSTS INTO THE HALLELUJAH CHORUS.

THE PEOPLE WHO EXPERIENCED THAT DRAMATIC SOUND WERE REMINDED OF A REDEEMED PEOPLE STANDING IN HEAVEN BEFORE JESUS WITH HIS REIGN OVER THE UNIVERSE. WHEN YOU EXPERIENCE SOMETHING SO POWERFUL YOU FEEL A KIND OF SMALLNESS BEFORE THE VAST POWER OF GOD.

IT’S THE KIND OF FEELING THAT THE ASTROPHYSICISTS FELT LAST WEEK WHEN THEY CAPTURED THE FIRST PHOTO OF THE MYSTERIOUS BLACK HOLE IN THE UNIVERSE.  EIGHT CAMERAS LOCATED AROUND THE WORLD TOOK A PICTURE OF THAT BLACK HOLE PREDICTED BY ALBERT EINSTEIN A CENTURY AGO.

THAT BLACK HOLE HAS A MASS, THE EQUIVALENT OF 6 BILLION SUNS. HOW CAN THE HUMAN MIND DEAL WITH SUCH AN AWESOME MYSTERY? HOW CAN THE HUMAN MIND FAIL TO BE OVERWHELMED BY THE INFINITE INTELLIGENCE OF THE GOD WHO IS THE GRAND DESIGNER OF THE UNIVERSE?

WHEN THE DISCIPLES WALKED AWAY FROM THE EMPTY TOMB——WHEN THEY BROKE BREAD TOGETHER WITH HIM ON EASTER SUNDAY AFTERNOON-- WHEN THEY SAW HIM ON EASTER SUNDAY NIGHT IN THE UPPER ROOM—WHEN THOMAS TOUCHED HIS HANDS AND SIDE AND FEET—WHEN THE APOSTLES ATE FISH WITH HIM BY THE SEASHORE--WHEN IT DAWNED ON THEM THAT HE WAS NOT A GHOST OR AN HALLUCINATION THEY REALIZED THEY WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMETHING REALLY BIG. THEY KNEW HE WAS MORE THAN A MAN.

HAD THE DISCIPLES REALLY ENCOUNTERED THE LORD OF THE UNIVERSE?  HAD THEY REALLY COME FACE TO FACE WITH THE GREAT ARCHITECT WHO WAS DESIGNING HIS CHURCH THAT WOULD CONTINUE HIS PRESENCE IN THE WORLD?

THIS WAS NO ORDINARY MAN. THIS JESUS OF NAZARETH WHO WAS PUT TO DEATH AND BURIED ON FRIDAY WAS TRULY THE SON OF GOD AS THE CENTURIAN SAID. THIS JESUS OF NAZARETH WHO WAS BURIED ON FRIDAY CAME OUT OF THE TOMB ON SUNDAY. THE DISCIPLES SAW THE EMPTY TOMB. THEY SAW THE RISEN CHRIST.

OVER A THOUSAND PEOPLE SAW HIM. THEY COULDN’T STOP TALKING ABOUT HIM.

THE PEOPLE IN ROME AND ATHENS AND ASIA MINOR WERE SAYING: THIS MAN IN PALESTINE WHO BROUGHT OTHER PEOPLE BACK TO LIFE CAME BACK TO LIFE HIMSELF. HE WALKED OUT OF HIS OWN GRAVE BY HIS OWN POWER.

CHRISTIANS WERE IDENTIFIED AS THOSE WHO BELIEVED THAT JESUS WAS ALIVE. FAITH IN THE LIVING JESUS IS WHAT MAKES A CHRISTIAN. SPREADING THAT FAITH AROUND IS WHAT MAKES DISCIPLES.

WHEN THE DISCIPLES WITNESSED THE POWER OF JESUS TO HEAL AND TO FORGIVE SINS; WHEN THEY WITNESSED THE POWER OF JESUS NOT ONLY TO RAISE OTHERS FROM THE DEAD BUT TO WALK AWAY FROM HIS OWN GRAVE BY HIS OWN POWER THE MANTRA, JESUS IS ALIVE SPREAD LIKE WILD FIRE THROUGHOUT THE MIDDLE EAST TO GREECE AND TO ROME. THEY SAID: JESUS IS LORD AND HE IS LIVING AMONG US.

THE GROWTH OF BELIEVERS WAS ASTONISHING.

IN HIS BOOK “THE RISE OF CHRISTIANITY” RODNEY STARK TELLS US THAT IN 40 A.D. THERE WERE ROUGHLY 1000 CHRISTIANS. IN 350 A.D. IN ONLY THREE HUNDRED YEARS, THE CATHOLC CHURCH GREW IN NUMBERS TO 34 MILLION. BY THE END OF THE FOURTH CENTURY CHRISTIANS WERE 50% OF THE POPULATION.

DISGUSTED WITH THE CULTURE OF DEATH AND INSPIRED WITH THE PROMISE OF LIFE FOREVER CHRISTIANS BUILT A NEW CIVILIZATION ON THE RUINS OF THE DECADENT ROMAN EMPIRE.

CHRISTIANITY BECAME THE GREATEST SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN. WESTERN CIVILIZATION INSPIRED BY CHRISTIANITY BECAME THE GREATEST CIVILIZATION THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN.

IN THE 21ST CENTURY CHRISTIANITY IS STILL A FORCE ON EVERY CONTINENT AND IN EVERY MAJOR REGION OF THE WORLD. THERE IS ONLY ONE EXCEPTION--THE HEARTLAND OF ISLAM IN THE MIDDLE EAST WHERE CHRISTIANS ARE BEING KILLED.

THE EARLY CHRISTIANS SAW THE CHURCH AS THE BODY OF THE RISEN CHRIST. NO POWER ON EARTH; NO HUMAN WEAKNESS; NO SCANDAL; NO PERSECUTION, NOT EVEN THE BURNING OF NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL CAN DESTROY IT. JESUS HIMSELF SAID: “I WILL BE WITH YOU ALL DAYS EVEN TO THE END OF THE WORLD.” HE ALWAYS KEEPS HIS PROMISES.

JESUS IS STILL ALIVE TODAY IN HIS BODY, THE CHURCH. HE IS REACHING OUT TO YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE BEING SEDUCED BY THE ILLUSIONS OF NEW AGE RELIGIONS. HE IS REACHING OUT TO YOUNG PEOPLE WHO HAVE BECOME DISILLUSIONED WITH ALL INSTITUTIONS. SOME OF THEM FEEL THAT THEIR PARENTS, THEIR GOVERNMENT, AND THEIR UNIVERSITIES HAVE FAILED THEM.

MANY YOUNG PEOPLE THINK THAT THE CHURCH IS JUST ONE MORE ORGANIZATION THAT THEY CANNOT TRUST. LITTLE DO THEY REALIZE THAT THE CHURCH IS MORE THAN A HUMAN INSTITUTION? LITTLE DO THEY REALIZE THAT THE CHURCH IS A LIVING ORGANISM? THE CHURCH IS THE BODY OF THE RISEN JESUS WHO NEVER FAILS US.

PARENTS, ARE SADDENED AT THE FLIGHT OF YOUNG PEOPLE FROM THE CHURCH.

SADLY THE FASTEST GROWING GROUP IN THE RELIGIOUS LANDSCAPE TODAY ARE THE NONES? THAT’S N O N E S. WHEN ASKED IN SURVEYS TO CHECK THEIR RELIGIOUS PREFERENCE THEY CHECK NONE. THEY ARE NOT TOO SURE WHAT THEY BELIEVE. OUR CULTURE IS NOT HELPING THEM.

SOME OF THEM CLAIM TO BE ATHEIST OR AGNOSTIC. SOME SAY THEY ARE SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUS. SOME ARE CONFUSED ABOUT GOD AND THE AFTERLIFE. YET MOST YOUNG PEOPLE STILL BELIEVE IN GOD. THEY ARE NOT STUPID.

WHEN YOU HEAR OF BLACK HOLES, TRILLIONS OF GALAXIES, AND 3 BILLION BITS OF INFORMATION IN EVERY DNA IT’S A STRETCH NOT TO BELIEVE IN DIVINE INTELLIGENCE BEHIND THE UNIVERSE.

EVENTUALLY SOME OF THESE YOUNG PEOPLE DO COME HOME TO GOD AND HIS CHURCH. THEIR HEADS MAY BE TURNED FOR A WHILE IN THE SOPHISTICATION OF A UNIVERSITY SETTING, BUT AS THEY MATURE THEY BEGIN TO EXPERIENCE LIFE IN THE REAL WORLD. GOD AND RELIGION SUDDENLY BECOME MORE RELEVANT TO THEIR LIVES.

THREE YEARS AGO A YOUNG JOURNALIST WROTE AN ARTICLE ON THE NONES IN TIME MAGAZINE.

THIS YOUNG AUTHOR WAS STRUGGLING WITH ATHEISM AND AGNOSTICISM. THEN SOMETHING HAPPENED IN HER LIFE WHILE SHE WATCHED HER MOTHER SLIP AWAY IN A HOSPITAL BED.

SHE SAID THAT SHE FELT A VOID IN HER LIFE. SHE SAID: “THEN AS NOW I LONGED FOR FAITH.”

LISTEN VERY CAREFULLY TO THIS: THE FAMOUS MATHEMATICIAN AND PHYSICIST, BLAISE PASCAL SAID

“THERE IS A GOD-SHAPED VACUUM IN THE HEART OF EACH MAN WHICH CANNOT BE SATISFIED BY ANY CREATED THING BUT ONLY BY GOD THE CREATOR, MADE KNOW THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.”

WHENEVER WE ASK YOUNG PEOPLE:”WHAT LED YOU TO COME BACK TO THE CHURCH? THE ANSWER IS OFTEN THE SAME: I HAD AN EXPERIENCE OF JESUS IN MY LIFE. I FELT HIS PRESENCE AND I KNEW THAT MY LIFE WAS CHANGED

THIS IS HOW A RECENT CONVERT EXPRESSED IT:

“BEFORE MY CONVERSION, MY LIFE WAS PRETTY CHAOTIC. IT WAS UNORGANIZED, I WASN’T LIVING WITH ANY MEANING. I WAS GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS OF LIFE: GETTING UP, CLEANING THE HOUSE, GOING TO BED. I DIDN’T TAKE TIME OUT FOR PRAYER, FOR GOD. NOW, GOD AND PRAYER HAVE BECOME A BIG PART OF MY LIFE.”

A CONTEMPORARY FRENCH POET WROTE: “THEY TELL ME THAT I AM BORN OF MAN AND WOMAN. I AM ASTONISHED AT THAT. I THOUGHT THAT I WAS SOMETHING MORE”. SCIENCE IS NOW TELLING US THAT WE ARE SOMETHING MORE.

THE SCIENTIST WERNHER VON BRAUN WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PUTTING A HUMAN BEING ON THE MOON, BEGAN HIS WORK IN GERMANY. TOWARD THE END OF THE WAR IN GERMANY HE WAS WORKING ON A ROCKET THAT WOULD REACH NEW YORK CITY.

AS THE RUSSIANS ADVANCED TOWARD GERMANY, VON BRAUN AND HIS STAFF FLED TO BAVARIA WHERE THEY SURRENDERED TO THE UNITED STATES. WITHIN MONTHS VON BRAUN WAS IN THE UNITED STATES WHERE HE WOULD EVENTUALLY LAUNCH OUR SPACE PROGRAM.

BEFORE HE DIED VON BRAUN MADE A STATEMENT THAT SURPRISED THE PUBLIC. THIS IS WHAT HE SAID:

“MANY PEOPLE SEEM TO THINK THAT SCIENCE HAS SOMEHOW MADE RELGIOUS IDEAS UNTIMELY OR OLD-FASHIONED. BUT I THINK SCIENCE HAS A REAL SURPRISE FOR THE SKEPTICS.

‘SCIENCE TELLS US THAT NOTHING IN NATURE NOT EVEN THE TINIEST PARTICLE, CAN DISAPPEAR WITHOUT A TRACE. NATURE DOES NOT KNOW EXTINCTION. ALL IT KNOWS IS TRANSFORMATION.” VON BRAUN CONTINUES:

“NOW, IF GOD APPLIED THIS FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE TO THE MOST MINUTE AND INSIGNIFICANT PARTS OF HIS UNIVERSE, DOESN’T IT MAKE SENSE TO ASSUME THAT HE APPLIED IT ALSO TO THE HUMAN SOUL? I THINK IT DOES.

‘AND EVERYTHING SCIENCE HAS TAUGHT ME, AND CONTINUES TO TEACH ME, STRENGTHENS MY BELIEF IN THE CONTINUITY OF OUR SPIRITUAL EXISTENCE AFTER DEATH. NOTHING DISAPPEARS WITHOUT A TRACE. NATURE DOES NOT KNOW EXTINCTION. ALL IT KNOWS IS TRANSFORMATION. NOTHING DISAPPEARS WITHOUT A TRACE.”

WHETHER IT’S VON BRAUN OR BLAISE PASCAL SOME SCIENTISTS ARE SUGGESTING THAT THIS LIFE IS NOT THE END. WE WERE MADE FOR SOMETHING MORE. THE LIFE OF THE SOUL HAD A BEGINNING BUT IT WILL NOT HAVE AN END.

ON EASTER SUNDAY BECAUSE JESUS WALKED AWAY FROM HIS OWN GRAVE BY HIS OWN POWER EVERY HUMAN SOUL WHO ACCEPTS THE RISEN JESUS HAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO LIVE FOREVER.

 

WHEN JESUS WENT TO BETHANY TO RAISE LAZARUS FROM THE DEAD HE SAID TO MARY THE SISTER OF LAZARUS. “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE WHOEVER BELIEVES IN ME WILL NEVER DIE.” THEN JESUS TURNED TO MARY AND ASKED HER DIRECTLY: “DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?” THE RISEN JESUS IS ASKING YOU AND ME THAT SAME QUESTION: “DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?”

 

THE UNBELIEVER SAYS: “IF ONLY IT WERE TRUE”. THE BELIEVER SAYS: I BELIEVE. LORD, HELP MY UNBELIEF.