Monday, April 01, 2013

Alive or a Vampire or a Zombie: Easter Day Sermon

A happy and Haly Easter to you all!

The controversial former Anglican Bishop of Durham David Jenkins cause controversy by saying the Resurrection was more than a conjuring trick with bones. He was a silly man but here he was spot on, though a little irreverant, though I am not convinced he was convinced the resurrection had much to do with flesh and blood, or even bones, at all.

Christ rose in the flesh, this is the Christian faith but the Ressurrection is far more than a remembered historic fact.

Today, Easter day, is about another Truth of the faith, it is about our resuurection. Christ descends to earth, to suffering, the Cross, death and even into Hell, as we say in the Creed so we might ascend into Heaven. "He came down so we might go up", "He died, so we might live", "He died so we might rise with him", "By dying he has conquered death". The ancient icon of the Anastasis which belongs to both East and West shows Christ descending into hell and grasping the hands of our first parents and leads them and righteous dead who died before him into heaven.

He, "the Resurrection and the Life" opens not Paradise but Heaven. Adam and Eve lost us Paradise but he has opened Heaven to us. We were enemies of God, rebels against his Law, strangers, foreigners, his death and resurrection has made Co-heirs, adpted sons and daughters, a holy nation, a royal priesthood a people set apart.

His Resurrection is for us even more significant than Creation for it is our Re-Creation, re-creation according to Grace, that is why we keep Sunday as our Holy Day, it is the day on which God begins creation, the first day of the week. The Resurrection is the beginning of mankinds recreation. The first was creation by nature but the re-creation is according the Grace, God's Free Gift, which is what Grace is.

Resurrection is not simply Life after death, after our last breath or even at the end of time.

It is Life here and now too. The saints were fully alive, they are our models. Many Christians today are far from saints, far from alive, even the Church herself seems only partially alive, sometimes like a body lying in ITU with a feint heart beat, or sometimes we are rather like Zombies, moving but more dead than alive, sometimes like vampires really dead but appearing to be alive, sucking the blood out of the living, and reality affecting other Christians with the contagion of not taking either the practice or the day to day living of the faith seriously.

Today's feast makes us ask, "Are we alive or dead", do we prefer the grave to the Life of Grace God offers us. Pope Francis in a sermon as Archbishop said that some people prefer their pets or cosmetics or a whole lot of other things to serving the poor. Christians who are alive want to serve the poor either by caring for their physical or spiritual needs. We can gauge whether we are alive by whether we do that: Is our relationship with Christ something we want to share or something we keep to ourselves imprisoned in the tomb?

The Pope speaks about a poorer Church, if it sold off every art treasure or chalice bought by the pennies of the poor, it would do little for the world but if Christians, Christians who are alive really used their own wealth, their money, their time, their skills for the poor, rather than merely worldly pursuits, then the Church would come life, then we would be the leaven that raises the dough, the light in the darkness of the world.

We, ourselves, as the Body of Christ, would be the Resurrection and the Life.

Do you want to be alive or do you prefer death?


Cosmos said...

"but if Christians, Christians who are alive really used their own wealth, their money, their time, their skills for the poor, rather than merely worldly pursuits, then the Church would come life, then we would be the leaven that raises the dough, the light in the darkness of the world."

This is where I feel like I have a problem understanding the Church's teaching of late. Knowing I am reading far too much into Father's words, it seems to me that while eartly charity is vital to serving, knowing, and loving God, this kind of rhetoric is tinged with modern materialims. Isn't the Gospel pretty explicit that while God abhors the misery of the poor, he is even more worried about all of our souls? Christianity is the light of the world when it offers the world knowledge of Jesus as Lord and Savior. This knowledge is communicated through acts of charity--there can be no doubt-- but also through the Sacraments, the Scripture, the deposit of Faith, and personal obedience to the precepts of the moral law.

It seems like we have become convinced that only acts of charity are authenitc, as if no one ever came to know God except through the regular volunteers at a soup kitchen.

Why does it seem that the differnt aspects of Catholic life and teaching are always pitted against each other these days?

Celia said...

Yes, the 'poorer church' is about each one of us reassessing our often selfish or frivolous priorities, not about demanding that 'the Church' or 'the Vatican' or 'the Pope' do something in our name, while not requiring much more of us than a couple of quid in the collection plate for CAFOD twice a year.

At least I hope it is.I hope the Church isn't about to go through a puritanical, iconoclastic phase which rubbishes the use of the beautiful and symbolic in its life and liturgy. The vestments, not to mention the red shoes, have a meaning which is nothing to do with luxury, or individual papal preferences.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Cosmos, you are right to be concerned but I detect a sense in Pope Francis' teaching about serving the God we can't see through the poor we can see, I hope there is no iconoclasm there but more an insistance we move from selfishness to humble service.

Maybe the Bishop of Rome may develope a love St Philip Neri "the Second Apostle of Rome" who taught the young men of Rome to wash the feet of pilgrims and the Roman poor, in order to teach them to love God, and almost single handedly ushered in the Tridentine Reforms and the Counter-Reform.

GOR said...

In his remarks on what people spend on pets, Pope Francis might have been referring to the amount we spend on pets here in the US. In 2011 what Americans spent on pets exceeded $50 billion for the first time.

We are routinely bombarded by Ads from the American Humane Society or the ASPCA showing cute puppies and kittens in need of adoption or abused pets in need of rescue. Worthy efforts certainly, but which pale in comparison to the lack of concern for endangered human beings.

Over 1 millions abortions are performed in the US annually – over 54 million since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

So, what do we care more about – pets or people?

Cettis Warbler said...

Like Fr, I feel Pope Francis is perhaps what the world needs now, at this time. Much as I love Pope Benedict, his wisdom is rather for the converted than accessible to the secular world. Coincidentally, did you catch Archbishop Welby's interview with the BBC on the day of his enthronement? He answered every one of the tedious, predictable questions from the reporter with positive and factual arguments. Fantastic.

Anyhow, Happy Easter dear Father Ray from the warbler!

Greg Collins said...

I don't believe the Holy Father is demanding that "Bishops ride on bicycles" but that each of us need to look at our attitude to the evangelical counsel of Poverty. He wants us to consider Liberality as an antidote to Greed. Two of the four sins that cry to Heaven are economic.

I think he understands the tremendous lure, temptation, of material possessions and the comfort they bring and how an attachment to same can become between us and God and harden our hearts to those less fortunate than ourselves.

Perhaps his own detachment from 'trappings' is an honest reaction to his own inner struggle with these temptations?

John Hails said...

Although Francis has asked us to serve, I think he is also asking us to acknowledge that we also should be ready to accept service.
Sometimes it is easier to give rather than receive. In order to understand real service we need to accept we have so much to learn and receive from those we think are serving.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

I agree with John Hails. We need especially to accept service from those we perceive to be poor. Years ago in Mindanao, when I was still new in the Philippines, I was walking home to the Columban house fairly late at night. A tricycle driver - tricycles are push-bikes with a sidecar for passengers - stopped and invited me to go with him. he was heading home too after a long day of hard work. When we got to our place I insisted on paying my fare, even though he didn't want to take it. I saw him as someone poorer than I was and in need of every peso he could earn. But I failed to see him as someone offering me the only gift he could give.