Easter 2013 - Homilies and Stories

You probably do not remember the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. During his day he was as powerful a man as there was on earth. A Russian Communist leader he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda (which by the way means truth), and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on economics and political science are still read today. There is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity hurling insult, argument, and proof against it.

An hour later he was finished. He looked out at what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men's faith. "Are there any questions?" Bukharin demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium but then one man approached the platform and mounted the lectern standing near the communist leader. He surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right. Finally he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: "CHRIST IS RISEN!" En masse the crowd arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of thunder: "HE IS RISEN INDEED!"

I say to you this morning: CHRIST IS RISEN! (congregational response should be: HE IS RISEN INDEED!). I am convinced! I have faith that Christ was dead and he was buried. That I believe. But, this too I accept as true: He rose from the dead and will come again in glory.

This is Easter. And to stand here on this day in this pulpit and proclaim this word. . . I cannot begin to tell you how this defines all that I am.


But, you will say to me, how do you know that the resurrection is real? How do you know that it is really valid? 

1. Because someone told me about the Resurrection
2. Because the Resurrection as stood the test of time
3. Because I have experienced the Resurrection
  
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General Comments for the Vigil 

The resurrection of Jesus which we celebrate on this night is the universal story of God’s grace triumphing over evil. Meditating on the biblical texts ahead of the liturgical celebration will help us enter personally into the mystery.

Each of the four gospels tells its own story of how the women discovered that Jesus was risen from the dead. Our meditation must always be based on the text we have before us. Being conscious of what is proper to the author often helps us to read the passage as if for the first time.
St Luke’s account, which we read this year, has its own sequence  of events. He says that the women discovered first that the body of Jesus was not there; as they were standing there, the angels (two, not one as in Matthew and Mark) announced  to them the good news of the resurrection.

Only St Luke includes the words of the angel which express very dramatically the mystery of the resurrection as it is always experienced, “Why look among the dead for someone who is alive?”

St Luke generally gives more importance to the role of women than the other evangelists. It is significant then that in his account the women are not told by the angels to bring the good news to the eleven; they do so of their own accord.

In verses 11 and 12 he highlights the incredulity of the eleven, with a hint that this was “an old wives’ tale”. As always in St Luke, the lowly are raised up while the mighty are cast down from their thrones (1:52).
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John Littleton
Gospel Reflection 

For Jesus’ disciples the days immediately after his resurrection from the dead were very cherished days. At first they did not recognise him so easily because there seemed to be some difference in his physical appearance. Yet he spoke to them, walked among them and ate with them just as he had done before his crucifixion and death a few days earlier.

However, the significance of the days after the resurrection for his disciples was that they were slowly, but surely, able to recognise and acknowledge him for who he really is: the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, the one who had begun to have such an impact and good influence on each of their lives. Their despair and hopelessness were dispelled by new hope and impressive conviction. Gradually, they began to understand that death is never the end but, rather, the beginning. Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead had definite implications for his disciples.

What exactly were those implications? After the resurrection, the disciples began to realise that everything Jesus had said and done — which before his death had seemed incredible — was indeed true. He had spoken the truth and lived according to the truth. His resurrection was proof, if ever proof was needed. Consequently, Jesus’ rising from the dead changed everything utterly for them. Now that he had risen he was present to them again in a very real and intimate way. His risen presence offered them reassurance and the possibility of renewing their commitment to him and his teaching.

The days after the first Easter gave Jesus’ disciples the opportunity to appreciate and marvel at his risen presence in their lives. They were able to respond with renewed dedication and hope-filled hearts. They could reassess their attitudes and lifestyle and begin to put into practice Jesus’ teaching and example of selflessness, compassion and, most importantly, forgiveness. In this way, they were to become great witnesses to the entire world for the risen Lord Jesus. 

Focusing instead on ourselves, we are also disciples of Jesus, and Easter Sunday and the following days are very cherished days for us too. The reality is that we are always living in the days after the Resurrection. Like the first disciples, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead has implications for us. We are ready to meet the risen Jesus whenever he enters our lives. His risen presence is always available to us, especially in word and sacrament, if only we welcome him with open and renewed hearts. So as we meet other people we have an occasion to respond in love to our risen Lord. As genuine disciples of Christ, we need to bring out what is best in ourselves by helping to bring out what is best in others. This is the only way that what happened at Easter will become truly meaningful in our lives.

During the days after Easter our faith challenges us to ask what difference does the resurrection of Jesus make in our lives. The Easter liturgical celebrations invite us to think about and reflect seriously on the implications of the resurrection for our faith and lifestyle. We realise that death is never the end and that, with the risen Christ, there is indeed life after death. If we believe this and live accordingly, then, like the first disciples, we will be witnesses to the entire world for the risen Lord Jesus. Alleluia! Alleluia!
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Scripture Reflection

“Two men looked out through prison bars; one saw mud, the other stars.”  Traditional saying

Lord, we thank you for faithful women,
spouses, mothers, members of our church communities.
When the rest of us give up on others
- a wayward child,
- a parish group that has lost its way,
- a political movement dogged by corruption,
- a relationship that is going nowhere,
they continue to hope.
What we call the end they see as the first day of a new time,
what we call night they recognise as the first sign of dawn.
Because they are at the tomb with spices they had prepared,
they are the first to discover that the stone has been rolled away
from the tomb and the body is not there;
while we continue to look among the dead for someone who is alive,
they receive the good news that he is not there and has risen to new life.

Lord, we thank you for resurrection moments
- we had given up hope that we would ever be reconciled with a friend,
when all of a sudden we were relating as before;
- one morning a loved one gave up drink or drugs;
- a dying friend who had long refused to see a priest asked to do so;
- opposite sides in a dispute started to negotiate.
We remember how when we understood that the large stone
Which was blocking new life was now rolled away,
We were like the women at the tomb of Jesus,
We stood there not knowing what to think.
It was all so unexpected that we dared not raise our eyes in case it was not true.
Only gradually we understood that we were looking among the dead
For someone who was alive.
We remembered the words we had been told many years before,
That sooner or later we all have to be handed over into the power of evil,
To be crucified and rise again on the third day.
Thank you, Lord. 

“When we love the other, we obtain from God the key to understanding
who he is and who we are.”
    Thomas Merton

Lord, faithful love, the kind that brings people to a tomb with spices
on the first day of the week and at the first sign of dawn
is the only power that can roll away the great stone
blocking crucified ones from rising to new life.

“Lord, look through my eyes, speak through my lips. May my poor human presence
be a reminder, however weak, of your divine presence.”
    Don Helder Camara

Lord, we pray that in spite of our sins,
our church communities may be signs of hope for society;
that like the two angels in brilliant clothes
who appeared to the women at the tomb of Jesus,
we may announce to those who mourn that,
though it may seem that love has been handed over
into the power of hatred and violence
and securely locked away with a great stone blocking the way out,
it is not among the dead, but still alive in the world. 

“When I tell people that above all I want justice for my people,
they look at me as if I am crazy. Idealism is alien to them.”
President Aristide, speaking about government officials, 1994

Lord, forgive us that we have become so accustomed to evil,
- in ourselves, in other people, and in society –
that we have become cynical.
When people speak to us about resurrection and new life
Their story seems to us pure nonsense and we do not believe them.
Even when, like Peter, we go running to the tomb
and see the cloths that once kept men in bondage now left lying on the ground,
we merely go back home amazed at what happened and still do not believe.

“The seed does not see the flower.”    Chinese proverb

Lord, we always like to know what the future holds for us.
At this Easter time we think of people of faith whom we have known
- elderly people in our communities, parents and grandparents,
teachers, founders of a movement we now belong to.
As they walked the roads of whatever peaceful  Galilee they lived in,
they knew a day would come when they would be handed over
into the power of sinful men, perhaps even to be crucified,
but they trusted that with your help they would rise again on the third day.
Today we remember their words with gratitude.

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General Comments for the Day Mass

John’s account of the resurrection is in two stages:
- verses 1-2 are about Mary of Magdala’s experience;
- verses 3 to 10 tell us about the experience of the two disciples.
In verses 1 and 2 you might like to focus on the symbolism of it being “still dark” and yet a “first day” of a new time. The large stone symbolizes all the forces, human and other, that keep God’s grace in the bondage of the tomb.
Your experience will help you interpret how Mary responded. Did she run in confusion? Or in fear?

The story of Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved can be read from various points of view. You can take them together as experiencing the resurrection, focusing on the details, especially the cloths lying on the ground, useless now since Jesus was alive, but also on the fact that until they saw the empty tomb they did not believe the teaching of the scriptures.
St John makes a point of contrasting the two apostles. If you would like to meditate on this aspect of the story, see Peter as symbol of the Church leader, while “the other disciple” is the one who, while having no position of authority, is specially loved by Jesus and, perhaps as a result, is first in faith.
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Scripture reflection

Lord, we thank you for moment of grace.
We had been in a situation of death
- a relationship that meant a lot to us seemed dead
- an addiction held us in its grip
- our country was locked in civil strife.
Then the day came that would turn out to be the first of a new era.
We were mourning as usual,
Like Mary of Magdala making a routine visit to the tomb of Jesus,
But saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb.
Naturally, we looked for some simple explanation,
“they have taken the Lord our of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him,”
but it wasn’t anything like that,
it was what the scriptures teach us, that your work must always rise again.

“They can kill a bishop, but they cannot kill the Church which is the people.”
Archbishop Romero, some days before he was martyred
Lord, we thank you for people of faith.
They believe the teaching of the scriptures
That your work may lie in the tomb for some days
But it must rise again.
“When the underprivileged unite and struggle for justice, is that not a sign
of the presence and action of God in our time?”

Musumi Kanyaro, Committee of Women in Church and Society, Lutheran World Federation

Lord, as we look around the world today
we see what Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved saw as they entered his tomb.
Cloths are lying on the ground that we can recognise for what they are
- attitudes of passivity that look like fine linen but in fact kept your chosen ones in the tomb.
Whereas you have once more fulfilled what you taught us in all the scriptures
and we had not really believed until this moment:
that you will always raise up your chosen ones when the world imprisons them in a tomb.

Lord, we pray today for those who were baptised last night,
Today they have enthusiasm, for them you are alive and present;
But there will certainly come a time when they will experience you absent,
When prayer will be like Mary of Magdala going in the gloom of early morning
To visit the tomb of Jesus.
In fact they will be like people who mourn for a spouse or a child
Without even having the comfort of the dead body to look at.
This is the way they will have to pass
because until they have had experiences like this they will not really believe
the teaching of the scriptures that your grace cannot be overpowered by evil
and that your presence within us must always, like Jesus, rise again from the tomb.

Lord, we like to feel that we have you within our grasp:
- that our prayers are always answered;
- that we are living in a way that is pleasing to you;
- that the times, gestures and words of our prayers are just right.
Teach us that we must be prepared to lose that security
and experience being abandoned, until we live in trust only
and see all those things that we considered important
like the cloths in the empty tomb of Jesus -
fine linen cloths, but they were keeping  him in the tomb.
Now we see them on the ground and also the cloth that had been over his head
not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.
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Thomas O’Loughlin
Homily notes 

1. The resurrection is the source of Christian hope: our lives are lot circumscribed by life as we know it now, but can open onto a new life in the presence of God. This is the mystery beyond words, yet somehow today it has to be the subject of our preaching. However, there are two widely held misconceptions which prevent people hearing what the liturgy says about the resurrection today in its symbols, prayers, and readings. A useful task in the homily is to draw attention to these mistaken ideas. The first is that it was some sort of resusscitation, a trick to prove that Jesus was right, an event which you either believe happened or did not happen back then. This misconception distracts from a hope in a ressurection in the future. The resurrection is not about resuscitation, but our future transformation. The second, and far more widespread notion, is that resurrection is just a fancy terms for a belief in an afterlife of some sort or other – the number of practising Christians who think that re-incarn­ation can be squared with Christian faith is an indication of this confusion’s prevalence. Our faith is not about some kind of post mortem survival, but in God’s gift of the fullness of life.

2. So, the first point is to avoid ‘explaining’ the mystery as if it were a series of ‘facts’ that can just be acknowledged as having happened so-and-so many years ago. In earlier times each item in the resurrection accounts was studied like the clues in a detective story with the aim of building an apologetic that would explain the ‘how’ of the resurrection and the ‘what’ of the risen body of Jesus. But the kerygma of the resurrection lies not in the details of ‘the first Easter,’ but in the reality that those who join their lives with the Christ shall share a fuller, glorious, transformed life as the gift of the Father. We can inherit the Father’s gift of glory as the final fulfilment of human life. It is worth pointing out that the disciple today must not be distracted by the ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions of ‘the first Easter’ from remembering that Christian faith strains onward to the future: the cost of discipleship now and tomorrow is worth it for the path of right­eousness does not end with a grave. Many wonder whether or not they ‘can believe’ in the empty tomb, but this misses the point. Belief in the resurrection is seen when someone, even in the face of still follows the of love with

3. Second, belief in the resurrection is not some Christianised version of a belief in the immortality of the soul. A belief in immortality is a human sense that a bit, some sort of spiritual residue, can survive without a body. The belief in the resurrection is that we are each creatures willed by God, in whose histories God is interested as the loving Father, and into whose history he has sent his Son sharing our humanity, and therefore whose whole existence’ spirit, soul, and body’ can be transformed to become part of his Son’s glorious body. Easter is not a celebration of a ‘survival factor’ in humanity, but of the Father’s love so that nothing good shall perish, but be given even fuller life.

4. To believe in the message of Easter is not a matter of tombs long ago in Palestine, but having the conviction that it is worthwhile to seek to bring light in darkness, to oppose lies with truth, to work for justice in the face of human corruption, and to say that death does not have the last word.

5. When we profess our faith in the resurrection of Jesus we are not setting out something with the intention that our understandings should grasp it and comprehend it. Jesus has been transformed to a new kind of existence by the Father beyond our understanding and we can only express it in symbols such as that of the empty tomb – tombs, after all, are designed to hold their remains indefinitely. By contrast, the proclamation ‘Jesus is Risen’ is an invitation to share in a new way of seeing God and the universe, and it is only from within this new vision (faith) that it makes sense. Hence, the ancient theological dictum, based in Isaiah 7:9, ‘unless you believe, you will not understand.’ The message of Acts and the gospel is that we are invited to live, to live in a new way, to live in Christ – and that in living in this way we discover in that the Father will raise us

6. If we join with those who accept the invitation Christ, which is what we say we are doing in accepting baptism and renewing our baptismal promises, we become part of a new people. The Christian ‘thing’ is about being part of a people, not about individualist survival or a privately-defined relationship with ‘the Wholly Other’, and as such it
commits us to a way of living. The early followers were referred to as being on ‘The Way’ (see Acts 9:2; 18:26; 19:9 and 23; 22:4,14 and 22) and our oldest extant teaching manual (The Didache) begins by contrasting ‘The Way of Life’ (to be followed by disciples) with ‘The Way of Death.’

7. The thought of resurrection may fill us with joy, but the life­d emands that accepting it makes on us can be great: we must do as we would be done to (cf Didache 1:2; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31), we must practice the forgiveness we desire from the Father (cf the ‘Our Father), and we must act with gentleness. Only in constant effort to live life in this way can we glimpse the truth of the empty tomb.

8. To live this life demands patience, a waiting for the good things to be revealed – the practice of the virtue of hope: we must always be of good courage … for we walk by faith, not by sight (cf 2 Cor 5:6f). Today is our day for rejoicing in the risen Christ, for thanking the Father for his love, and for reminding ourselves of that to which we have committed ourselves: The Way. Death has contended with Life, yet despite tombs and symbols of death all around us, we proceed to commit ourselves to life, confident that as the Father transformed the existence of Jesus, so he will transform the whole creation.
 
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ILLUSTRATIONS: 

1: Egyptian Pyramids  

They are world-famous as one of the “seven Wonders” of the ancient world. But they are actually gigantic tombs containing the mummified bodies of Egyptian Pharaohs. Westminster Abby is famous, and thousands visit it, because the dead bodies of famous writers, philosophers and politicians are entombed there. But there is a Shrine of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, and pilgrims from all over the world visit a tomb there which is empty with a note at its entrance which says, “He is not here.” It is famous because Jesus Christ, who was once buried there, rose from the dead, leaving an empty tomb, as he had told his disciples he would. Thus, he worked the most important miracle in his life, defying the laws of nature and proving that he is God. We rejoice at this great and unique event by celebrating Easter. (Fr. J P)  

2: He is risen indeed:  

You probably do not remember the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. Many years ago he was one of the most powerful men on earth. A Russian Communist leader, he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. He was the editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda, and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on economics and political science are still read today. There is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly of Communists.  The subject was atheism. Addressing the crowd, he attacked Christianity, hurling insults and arguments against it. When he had finished, he looked out at the audience. "Are there any questions?" he demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium, but then one man approached the platform and mounted the lectern.   After surveying the crowd, he shouted the ancient greeting of the Russian Orthodox Church: "CHRIST IS RISEN!"   The crowd stood up and shouted in a thundering voice:   "HE IS RISEN INDEED!"   Amazed and dejected, Bukharin left the stage in silence.  Perhaps he had learned the lesson that faith in Christ’s resurrection was deeply rooted in his Russian Orthodox communist followers!

3: The phoenix bird:   

The late Catholic Archbishop of Hartford, John Whealon, who had undergone cancer surgery resulting in a permanent colostomy, wrote these very personal words in one of his last Easter messages: "I am now a member of an association of people who have been wounded by cancer.  That association has as its symbol the phoenix, a bird of Egyptian mythology.  When the bird felt its death was near, every 500 to 1,461 years, it would fly off to Phoenicia, build a nest of aromatic wood and set itself on fire.  When the bird was consumed by the flames, a new phoenix sprang forth from the ashes.  Thus, the phoenix symbolizes immortality, resurrection, and life after death.  It was one of the earliest symbols of the risen Christ.  In the same way, any person who has survived a struggle with cancer is considered phoenix-like, having risen from the ashes of disease and been given a new lease on life.    Suddenly life becomes more precious to that person.  Each hour is lived more fully.  Each friend seems much more real.  The sky seems more blue, the sunshine more beautiful, and the colors more vivid.  Even dull and ordinary things are causes for gratitude to God.”  Archbishop John Whealon could have lived in a gloomy tomb of self-pity, hopeless defeat, and chronic sadness, but his faith in the resurrected Lord opened his eyes to new visions of life.  

4. "TA-DA!"

A Sunday school teacher had just finished telling her third graders about how Jesus was crucified and placed in a tomb with a great stone sealing the opening. Then, wanting to share the excitement of the resurrection, she asked: "And what do you think were Jesus’ first words when He came bursting out of that tomb alive?" A hand shot up into the air from the rear of the classroom. Attached to it was the arm of a little girl. Leaping out of her chair she shouted out excitedly "I know, I know!" "Good" said the teacher, "Tell us, what were Jesus first words?" And extending her arms high into the air she said: "TA-DA!" 

5. Mother-in-law in Jerusalem:  

George went on a vacation to the Middle East with most of his family including his mother-in-law. During their vacation and while they were visiting Jerusalem, George's mother-in-law died. With the death certificate in hand, George went to the American Consulate to make arrangements to send the body back to the States for proper burial. 

The Consul, after hearing of the death of the mother-in-law, told George that the sending of a body back to the States for burial is very, very expensive. It could cost as much as $5,000. The Consul continued, “In most cases the person responsible for the remains normally decides to bury the body here. This would only cost $150.” George thought for some time and answered, "I don't care how much it will cost to send the body back; that's what I want to do." 

The Consul, after hearing this, said, "You must have loved your mother-in-law very much, considering the difference in price." "No, it's not that!" said George. "You see, I know of a case many years ago of a person, by name Jesus, who was buried here in Jerusalem. On the third day he arose from the dead. I just can't take that chance." 

6. See what happens.  

One lady wrote in to a question and answer forum. "Dear Sirs, Our preacher said on Easter, that Jesus just swooned on the cross and that the disciples nursed Him back to health. What do you think? Sincerely, Bewildered. 

Dear Bewildered, Beat your preacher with a cat-of-nine-tails, nail him to a cross; hang him in the sun for 6 hours; run a spear through his side...put him in an airless tomb for 36 hours and see what happens." Sincerely, Charles.    

3) Rented for a week end: Joseph of Arimathea was a very wealthy Pharisee, a member of the council, and a secret follower of Jesus. It was Joseph who went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. And it was Joseph who supplied the tomb for Jesus’ burial. I wonder if someone pulled him aside and said, "Joseph that was such beautiful, costly, hand-hewn tomb. Why on earth did you give it to someone to be buried in?"  "Why not?" Joseph may have answered.  He only needed it for the weekend."  

7. Resurrection in election:  

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was once asked if he believed in the resurrection. “Of course I do,” said Huckabee. “Dead people vote in every election we have in Arkansas. Resurrection is very real to us.” (The above Stories posted by Fr. Antony Kadavil: akadavil@gmail.com)

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8. Homilists are reluctant to cope with the implications of Easter and substitute high flown and empty rhetoric.  Or perhaps they are unwilling to deal with the hints of resurrection which are part of daily life, promises and foretastes of the ultimate resurrection.   

 Easter did not happen just once in the past. It happens every day. Easter is not merely a harbinger of ultimate resurrection when life triumphs completely over death. It happens every day. Each of its experiences death and rebirth often. Today is the festival when all those “little” resurrections are brought together and integrated with the overarching resurrections, once and future, which are at the core of our faith. 

Story:

 Once upon a time there was a terrible fight in a certain family. The father and the mother had slipped into the habit of low level nastiness with one another and were drifting apart. The children (teenagers) were routinely snarling at one another and at their parents. Sometimes they joined in the mean-spirited exchanges between the parents. No one left the house, there was no divorce nor even the talk of divorce -–but there were lots of thoughts about it.

What was once a happy and loving family, as families go, had turned into a battleground in which four armies were fighting, and not taking any prisoners. 

Then, the girl teen was in an auto accident in which her car was totally by a drunken driver. The other three rushed to the hospital and found her in bed, covered with bandages, but able to smile weakly. I had one of those near death experiences, she informed them (what self-respecting teen in an auto accident doesn’t have one of them) and God told me we’re a bunch of geeks and we should stop fighting with each other. Now. So they all hugged one another and cried and promised they’d start over again. Now the family had new life and it was Easter. (Andrew Greeley)

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9. Happy Easter, Church. Christ Is Risen. He Is Risen Indeed. 

The resurrection of Jesus is God's final word spoken in the face of sin, suffering, evil and death. Thanks Be to God.

Easter egg hunts have been in the news all week, both because of the controversy in the White House over the invitations that went out warning that the one on the White House lawn might need to be cancelled, as well as the refusal of some school districts to refer to "Easter eggs," only "Spring eggs."

Come on. Easter egg hunts? They are part of our most beloved childhood memories, even though they have very little to do with the real Easter. Or do they?  

Coloring eggs; that sweet smell of vinegar; getting those same six colors all over fingers, clothes, and countertops year after year. Then getting up early enough to compete against brothers and sisters to find the most baskets of eggs and goodies.

As parents we have different memories of the same event. Easter egg hunts mean bleaching out those Easter egg-colored clothes and counter tops; getting up even earlier than the kids; making lots of egg salad sandwiches (with strange colors staining the bread); and finding Easter grass still lurking in corners of the house on the Fourth of July. 

But while some of the traditions behind Easter egg hunts have remained the same, there has been one big change that has transformed large community-wide egg hunts, Sunday school class quests, and our own living room look-fors.  

Let's get real: we might still color and decorate real eggs. But how many of those actual hard-boiled eggs get taken out of the fridge and hidden in nooks and crannies anymore? Real eggs have been replaced with plastic eggs. The realities of lurking bacteria and potential lawsuits have banished actual eggs from almost every "egg hunt." Instead, plastic eggs filled with store-bought candies have, for the sake of sanity and sanitation, replaced the hand-colored hard-boiled real egg.

In other words rather than searching for an egg, a symbol of new life, we have a petroleum based plastic shell filled with candies made of artificial colors and sweetness. Not a very life-affirming symbol. Not a very Easter-y symbol...
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 10. More Hope than We Can Handle 

Earlier this week, an old couple received a phone call from their son who lives far away. The son said he was sorry, but he wouldn't be able to come for a visit over the holidays after all. "The grandkids say hello." They assured him that they understood, but when they hung up the phone they didn't dare look at each other.

Earlier this week, a woman was called into her supervisor's office to hear that times are hard for the company and they had to let her go. "So sorry." She cleaned out her desk, packed away her hopes for getting ahead, and wondered what she would tell her kids.

Earlier this week, someone received terrible news from a physician. Someone else heard the words, "I don't love you any more." Earlier this week, someone's hope was crucified. And the darkness is overwhelming.
No one is ever ready to encounter Easter until he or she has spent time in the dark place where hope cannot be seen. Easter is the last thing we are expecting. And that is why it terrifies us. This day is not about bunnies, springtime and girls in cute new dresses. It's about more hope than we can handle.

Craig Barnes, Savior at Large
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 11. Yes, There Is Hope 

In the early part of World War II, a Navy submarine was stuck on the bottom of the harbor in New York City. It seemed that all was lost. There was no electricity and the oxygen was quickly running out. In one last attempt to rescue the sailors from the steel coffin, the U.S. Navy sent a ship equipped with Navy divers to the spot on the surface, directly above the wounded submarine. A Navy diver went over the side of the ship to the dangerous depths in one last rescue attempt. The trapped sailors heard the metal boots of the diver land on the exterior surface, and they moved to where they thought the rescuer would be. In the darkness they tapped in Morse code, "Is there any hope?" The diver on the outside, recognizing the message, signaled by tapping on the exterior of the sub, "Yes, there is hope."

This is the picture of our dilemma as we worship this glad Easter Day. Humankind is trapped in a dreadful situation. All around we are running low on hope, and we look for a word from beyond offering it to us. This world in which we live is plagued with war and famine, mounting debt and continual destruction. The more we try to rescue ourselves the more we seem to fall behind. We wonder: Is there any hope?

Bill Self, Is There Any Hope?
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 12. It Opens on the Dawn

Mary Magdalene came to the tomb while it was still dark. But the darkness was soon overcome with light. Maybe that's the message you need to hear this day. Perhaps for whatever reason you are in darkness right now. Family concerns. Problems at work. Anxiety about your health and your future. The loss of someone you love. Easter promises us more than the stars in our darkness. Easter promises us that in the midst of our deepest darkness the Son rises to overwhelm the darkness forever.

Victor Hugo once put it like this, "For half a century I have been writing my thoughts in prose and verse and history and philosophy . . . But I feel I have not said the thousandth part of what is in me. When I go down to the grave I can say, I have finished my day's work,' but I cannot say, I have finished my life.' My day's work will begin again the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes on the twilight; it opens on the dawn." Mary Magdalene came to the tomb while it was still dark "but the darkness did not remain. The dawn broke. God's Son had risen.

King Duncan
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 13. The Easter Choice

When faced with new realities, you have at least three options for how to respond (and it is nearly certain that you will opt for one of these three possibilities). First, you can stay bewildered. You can let this event knock you flat on your back and then stay there. Second, you can engage in world-class denial. You can look at the facts and ignore them. Or third, you can, slowly perhaps, assimilate this new information. You may get knocked as flat on your back as the next person by this new realization, but eventually you pick yourself up. You embrace this new truth and then go through the long, sometimes painful, process of re-assessing life in the light of this new evidence.

This is the Easter choice. When faced with the incredible proclamation that Jesus rose again from the dead, you can be agnostic and cynical by saying that you don't know what to make of this but then neither are you going to try. Who cares anyway? Or you can deny it. The whole thing is fiction, fantasy, a pious wish but something that never really happened. Or you can move past the shock toward acceptance. But let me caution you: if you are going to accept the truth of the bodily resurrection, you need to let it change you totally. 

That's the Easter choice. The problem for most of us is that we are not surprised enough by Easter to realize we face a choice. Easter is a part of the background scenery of our lives. We've never been afraid of Easter, never been bewildered by it. Believing that Jesus rose again from the dead becomes a little like believing the earth is round and that it orbits the sun. Once upon a time people didn't know that. They thought the earth was flat and that the sun orbited the earth. It caused quite a stir when this view had to be revised. But that was a long time ago and now we accept that picture of our solar system without much thought. Sure the world is round and we orbit the sun, but what does that have to do with anything? It doesn't change what I have to do at work tomorrow, does it?

 Is that what Easter becomes for us? We believe it happened but then, we've always believed that. Even Easter has somehow become part of the "routines" of this world. So why would it have much of an effect on what we do tomorrow? Easter is no longer shocking for us--it surely does not make us re-evaluate everything else we think we know. And anyway, we're not sure we want to have everything in our lives changed. 

Of course, if we can believe in the resurrection at all, it is a gift of faith granted to us by the prior gift of grace. But if we have received that grace and accept the truth that gets proclaimed from every Christian pulpit in the world each Easter Sunday morning, then we have to know that this truth changes everything. This is not some fact we can ponder just once every twelve months. This changes everything.... and on EVERY day.

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
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 14. The Cape of Good Hope 

I can still recall a geography lesson from elementary school in which we learned that the southernmost point of Africa is a point which for centuries has experienced tremendous storms. For many years no one even knew what lay beyond that cape, for no ship attempting to round that point had ever returned to tell the tale. Among the ancients it was known as the "Cape of Storms," and for good reason. But then a Portuguese explorer in the sixteenth century, Vasco De Gama, successfully sailed around that very point and found beyond the wild raging storms, a great calm sea, and beyond that, the shores of India. The name of that cape was changed from the Cape of Storms to the Cape of Good Hope. 

Until Jesus Christ rose from the dead, death had been the cape of storms on which all hopes of life beyond had been wrecked. No one knew what lay beyond that point until, on Easter morning, those ancient visions of Isaiah became the victory of Jesus over our last great enemy. Suddenly, like those ancient explorers, we can see beyond the storm to the hope of heaven and eternal life with the Father. More than that, we dare to believe that we shall experience in our own human lives exactly what the Son of God experienced in his, for the risen Christ says to us, "Because I live, you shall live also." This is the heart of the Easter faith. 

Robert Beringer, Easter People, CSS Publishing Company
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 15. Ongoing Easter 

Ongoing Easter gets us finally home at last, for life is not an endless circle but life is moving to an end point. The crowning achievement of the risen Lord is to bring us finally home together with the whole family of God in that transition from time into eternity. It is a great privilege to witness that transition in the lives of people and I think of one this Easter day. Her name was Augusta. She lived 100 years, raised in the prairies of South Dakota, faced every manner of hardship and heartache, but was buoyant and lived on the resurrection side of the cross, raised a family. In the last hour of her life standing with her daughters around her in the hospital room, I heard her bless her daughters. Being a mother to the very end and with a twinkle in her eye, looked at the faces of her daughters around her and pointed to them each one and said, "Too much lipstick," and then closed her eyes in peaceful death.

That is the goal toward which the ongoing Easter draws us and transforms our dark, gloomy mornings into a shining doxology. We say with all the faithful of all of the ages, blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By His great mercy, we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, unfailing and undefiled, kept in heaven for you. Though you must go through various trials, all this is so that your faith may redound to the praise, glory and honor of Jesus Christ. Without having seen Him, we love Him, and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. The outcome of your faith is the salvation of your souls.

F. Dean Lueking, Ongoing Easter
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16. Billy Graham responded to someone who shouted out "God is dead! God is dead!" Dr. Graham with tenderness replied, "That's strange because I just talked to Him in prayer a few minutes ago." Yes, the day you believe in the resurrection is the day you change the universe, and most importantly, you can reflect that transforming truth. 

Eric S. Ritz
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17. The Legend of the Touchstone 

Do you remember the Legend of the Touchstone? It's a great story to recall on Easter Sunday morning. According to that ancient legend, if you could find the touchstone on the coast of the Black Sea and hold it in your hand, everything you touched would turn to gold. You could recognize the touchstone by its warmth. The other stones would feel cold, but when you picked up the touchstone, it would turn warm in your hand.
Once a man sold everything he had and went to the coast of the Black Sea in search of the touchstone. He began immediately to walk along the shoreline picking up one stone after another in his diligent and intentional search for the touchstone. He was consumed with this dream. He wanted desperately to find this miraculous stone. However, after several days had passed, he suddenly realized that he was picking up the same stones again and again. So he devised a plan... pick up a stone; if it's cold, throw it into the sea. This he did for weeks and weeks.
Then one morning he went out to continue his search for the touchstone. He picked up a stone; it was cold... he threw it into the sea. He picked up another stone - cold! He threw it into the sea. He picked up another stone... it turned warm in his hand, and before he realized what he was doing...
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Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Diphtheria once was common in the United States. A tale speaks of a couple having the horror of seeing three of their children die from the foul disease. The parents were the directors of the Sunday School. It fell to them on Easter Sunday to read the Gospel of the Resurrection shortly after their children's death.

There were many tears in the congregation from those knowing of their loss. But the parents never lost their composure. After the Liturgy, a boy said to his father, "Dad, they must really believe in the Resurrection." The father said, "Son, every Christian does." And the boy responded, "But not the way they do, Dad."

My favorite Easter announcement I found in the National Catholic Reporter. It read in bold, large letters: "Something happened that Easter morning that makes our bad Fridays good and our lives a risk worth taking."

Indeed we come here today to celebrate what one preacher has correctly called "the Greatest Show on Earth." Easter is God's way of saying to each of us with a very large smile, "Let's party!" And of course we should.

I heard of a TV reporter interviewing a group of properly excited youngsters in New York City's Rockefeller Center. He chose one six year old and asked patronizingly, "What does the Easter bunny mean to you?" The boy without a second's hesitation replied, "Jesus died for our sins and then rose from the dead." The stuttering reporter quickly asked, "But what does that have to do with the Easter bunny?" The boy said very simply, "Nothing."

The interview had not been live but obviously taped earlier in the day. One wonders why the TV channel chose to show this particular segment almost proudly on the evening news. One would think the reporter would like to hide a knockout punch from a mere child. The only plausible explanation is that the TV people in their wisdom wanted to reveal to their enlightened listeners how Christians, even the youngest among us, miss the real meaning of Easter.

Such a worthy as Winston Churchill had no doubt on the subject of the Resurrection of the Christ as well as his own. I learned this from watching the 1994 funeral services for President Richard Nixon in California on the television. Billy Graham was one of the speakers. Dr Graham reported on one of the lines in Sir Winston's will. England's one-time Prime Minister stipulated that he wished one bugler to stand in a tower of St Paul's Cathedral and blow taps. In another tower, he wanted a second bugler to respond by blowing reveille.

Nor did America's own Ben Franklin entertain anything but certainty on this question. This was the splendid epitaph he wrote for himself:   "The body of B Franklin, printer, (like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and gilding)     lies here, food for worms. But the work shall not be lost; for it will (as he believed) appear once more, in a new and more elegant edition,  revised and corrected by the Author."

Mr Franklin was simply exulting in what the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins would later call "the glory of Christ's body risen."

The Easter Sunday sequence from the Roman Missal sums up the entire scene in beautiful language. "Death and life were locked together in a unique struggle. Life's Captain died: now He reigns, no more to die."

Henry Van Dyke has penned, "Some people are so afraid of death that they never begin to live." Hopefully, that will never be said of anyone of us here. For "faith in Christ knows that the best is yet to come."

This Easter take time to think; it is the source of power. Take time to read; it is the source of wisdom. Take time to pray; it is the greatest power on earth. Take time to love and be loved; it is God's gift to you. Take time to be friendly; it brings happiness. Take time to laugh; it is music for the soul. Take time to give; it is too short a life to be selfish. Take time to work; it is the price of success. Take time to help the poor; it opens the door to Heaven. Take time to listen; it may be God speaking. (Author unknown)