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Bishop's Homily for Easter Sunday

April 9, 2023

 [Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, Honolulu]

The liturgical directives are very clear:  The Easter Vigil is to be celebrated at night, after darkness has covered the earth.  During the Vigil we light a new fire and from it we light the Easter candle, that pillar of beeswax that signifies the victory of Christ over the darkness of sin and death.  It is quite dramatic to enter a darkened church with a hundred flickering lights that all came from the one light of the Easter candle.  It makes very clear that a “people who walk in darkness have seen a great light,” as we hear in the prophet Isaiah.  Yet I was watching a broadcast of this year’s Easter Vigil from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, ground zero of the Easter event, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  But that Easter Vigil was being celebrated in the morning of Holy Saturday rather than the night, and the reason is that Jerusalem has experienced great tensions in the past few days that have caused the local government to impose a curfew.  The Catholics who normally would have celebrated at night instead celebrated in the light of day, because that was the only time available for them to gather.

This raises a question that is not easy to deal with.  If Christ is risen from the dead and has truly conquered sin and death, why is there so much sin and death all around us?  Has this great sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, which God accepted as a pleasing offering by raising Jesus from the dead, really been in vain?  Have we invalidated it by our continuing to cling to a culture of death, where unborn babies’ lives are eradicated, where innocent children are randomly shot in their schools, and where countless people die of starvation?  Has Christ’s victory made any difference at all in our living the truth in a world that seems to think everyone has his or her own personal truth -- that may differ from your personal truth, but that you must still respect, thank you very much!  Has the peace Christ has come to establish really taken hold if even in the place of his Resurrection, there is such discord among the various peoples who live there that they cannot even gather on this most holy night?  If Christ is truly risen from the dead, can we demonstrate it by a new and improved world?  In many ways, when confronted with such questions, we may be tempted to slink away and say, “Well, I believe it, and that is good enough.”

Despite the curfew in Jerusalem, there were our brothers and sisters celebrating with full joy the victory of Jesus over sin and death.  And here we are, a small band in comparison to all the people who live in our community, celebrating the same with joy and hope in our hearts.  But if the victory of Jesus which we celebrate is to make a difference in our world, we are the ones who need to make that difference through out witness of faith and love.

Some had the privilege of seeing the risen Jesus with their eyes, yet Jesus teaches us that we are blessed when we have not seen and still believe.  This is why it is so important for us to gather every Sunday at this table, where we are nourished by the living Word of God, the voice of the risen Jesus speaking to us; and where Jesus is physically present to us, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in this sacrament of the Eucharist.  We may be as small as a mustard seed, but Jesus assures us that if we are faithful to him, he will give us a growth we cannot possibly imagine.

If we see the world as a glass half-empty, we can become cynical about our faith, just as others are already cynical about it.  But if we walk in the light that Christ is, we will be able to see much more.  How many parents dedicate their lives to their children, sharing with them solid values, because those parents are in love with the risen Jesus and proclaim him, even when they are opposed?  How many prisoners have the stone of isolation and hatred rolled away from their hearts because disciples of Jesus visit them and show them his love?  How many fights and conflicts are diffused – and even offenses forgiven – because Jesus’ disciples refuse to let hatred and vengeance rule their lives?  How many poor people who find it so difficult to support themselves and their families, have hope because the people of God reach out to them with food and shelter and loving care?  How many mothers who find themselves with a difficult or unwanted pregnancy choose life for their children because the followers of Jesus walk with them in their need?

Yes, it is easy to see the darkness and its overwhelming volume that overcomes the light even of the sun.  But we must never fail to see the flickering lights of those who are baptized in Christ’s death so that they may proclaim his victory over death.  It is our mission to spread that light, candle by candle, person by person, day by day.  And one day, the stones we continue to roll across the grave of Jesus to keep him in his place, will all be taken away, and his light will flood the world.  The Resurrection of Jesus has obviously not yet touched every corner of the world, but we who celebrate it with sure and certain faith, have the awesome mission to light his way with whatever little light burns in us from the risen Christ.  Nothing else can save the world but this Savior who gave his life for us, and who is still with us, shining brightly in our hearts!  No matter how dark the world may seem, we boldly shine his light simply by singing, wherever we may be, our joyful Alleluia!