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Bishop's Homily for Easter Sunday

April 17, 2022

[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu / Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, Honolulu]

There were many trees in the Garden of Eden, but two are given special attention in the Bible.  One tree was handsome, pleasing to the eye, and very attractive, but its fruit was toxic to the point of death.  Because of this, God forbade Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of this tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  The other tree was scrawny, odd-shaped, and tortuous to behold, but God actually hoped Adam and Eve would choose to eat the fruit of this tree because it was the Tree of Life, and if they ate its fruit, they would live forever.  But, as we know, that slimy serpent, Satan, tricked them into eating that forbidden and toxic fruit by telling them that they would be like gods if they did.  They thought this would be a good thing, because, after all, God is good, so what could be wrong with wanting to be like him? So they took and ate, and through this disobedience of God’s warning, sin entered the world and sin’s consequence of death.  The sin was not so much disobedience, though that was serious enough.  The sin was thinking they needed to eat some fruit or do some other thing to be like God.  The fact of the matter was that they already were like God, since he had made them in his very own image and likeness.  They were tricked into thinking that they lacked something essential, and so they ate the fruit that seemed so sweet but was a bitter as death itself.

God, therefore, decided that they must leave the Garden.  Yes, in a sense it was a punishment, but since God alone knows what it truly good and truly evil, he knew that expelling them from the Garden was an act of great mercy and great love, because he knew that still in the Garden was the Tree of Life, and that on the day they ate the fruit of that tree, they would live forever.  And God could not bear the thought of their living forever without knowing who they really were.

And ever since then, people have wanted to be gods.  They grasp at power so lustily, thinking it will give them something they lack.  They think they have the right to decide when life will begin and when it will end, when only God, in his infinite wisdom, can determine the right time for this.  They think they can recreate themselves, wanting a different gender, a different social status, or a different race, not realizing that God alone understands good and evil and determines who we will be and how we will live, because he knows and loves us more than we know and love ourselves.  Though we know how toxic this Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil can be, we still are tricked into thinking it is the way for us to become divine.  We just cannot seem to believe that being made in the image and likeness of God is all we really need and more than we can imagine.

But in the fullness of time, God decided to open the Garden of Eden once again.  But he had placed there angels with flaming swords to guard its entry from anyone who dared to enter without knowing who he truly was.  So God sent his only begotten Son, who was immersed in the River Jordan so that soaked in this water he would be able to survive the flaming swords.  As he entered the Garden, he was still cut by the swords of human cruelty, of false judgement, and of hatred.  Yet, he managed to make it to that scrawny, unattractive Tree.  He climbed upon it and there he died, delighting Satan once again.  But in three days, he rose from the dead, and he became the fruit of the Tree of Life.  And now he invites us into the Garden to eat his flesh and drink his Blood, so that we, too, can live forever.

But before we go into the Garden, we must be soaked in the saving waters that enable us to cross those flaming swords, and so Jesus calls us to Baptism.  There he reminds us of who we really are by immersing us in the name of God himself, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  He anoints us with the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, so that we can be set on fire with the wisdom, knowledge, counsel and fortitude that come from God alone.  And he invites us onto that Tree of Life to eat of its fruit, which is his very own Body and Blood, so that, knowing who we really are we can live forever.

The One who was Divine did not grasp at his divinity, but lowered himself, taking the form of us human beings who so easily enslave ourselves to our own notion that we can make ourselves gods.  He embraced even death on a cross, and therefore God exalted him by raising him from the dead.   He remains with us to this day and even to the end of days, reminding us that we need nothing except a spirit of thanks that we have been so wonderfully made in God’s image and likeness.  He calls us to a Eucharistic spirit that finds it right and just, our duty and our salvation to give thanks to God always for drawing us back to himself.  He offers himself to us as the fruit of the Tree of Life, so that, eating his flesh and drinking his blood, we can live forever.

This is why we celebrate this Easter day as the greatest day in the history of the world.  On this day the ancient trickster, the father of lies and deception, was himself tricked and robbed of his power.  On this day, a fellow human being who had no doubt about God’s life within him, was the first to not be tricked into thinking he needed more and more to be like God.  On this day, the gates of the Garden of Eden, this Paradise that is our true destiny, were opened once for all to anyone who is united in holy communion with the risen Lord Jesus.  On this day we celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin and death and his promise of victory for us who can now partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life and, with him, live forever.  What more can we do than sing from the depths of our hearts “Alleluia!”?