I often tell the children in our school that if there’s just one thing they ought to know about God, one thing they ever learn about God, and that is that God loves them more than anything, that would be enough. It’s the thing that I hope they remember me saying, because that’s the message I feel called to proclaim. God’s love is the most important thing we have in this life, the most precious gift we will ever receive.
It is true gift, because there’s nothing, not one thing, that we can do to earn it. Filthy in sin as we are, we certainly don’t do it. And entitled as we can sometimes be, there is no way we can ever say that we have a right to it. But we get it anyway. God freely pours out his love on us sinners, not because we are good, but because he is.
God loves us first and loves us best, and it’s a love that will totally consume us, totally transform us, if we let it. It’s a love that can break our stony hearts and transform our sadness into real joy. It’s a love that can change us from people of darkness to real live people of light and joy. It’s a love that obliterates the power of sin and death to control our eternity, and opens up to us the glory of heaven.
And even if we live our lives passing from one thing to the next and barely noticing anything going on around us, we have to pause and appreciate God’s love on this most holy morning. This is the morning that confounded Mary of Magdala; it’s the morning that got Peter and John out of their funk and sent them running. It’s the morning that John finally starts to get what Jesus was getting at all this time. He saw and believed.
He saw that his Lord was not there, that death could not hold him. He saw that the grave was no longer the finality of existence. He saw that Love – real Love – is in charge of our futures. He saw that there is real hope available to us hopeless ones.
“To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”
That quote, from Saint Peter’s testimony in the Acts of the Apostles, today’s first reading, is the Easter faith to which we are all called. We have to stop living like this is all there is. We have to stop loving our sins more than we love God. We have to live like a people who have been loved into existence, and loved into redemption.
That means we have to put aside our disastrous sense of entitlement. We have to learn to receive love so deep that it calls us to change. And we have to love in the same way too, so that others will see that and believe.
We’ll never find real love by burying ourselves in work or careers. We’ll do nothing but damage our life if we seek to find it in substance abuse. We’ll never find love by clinging to past hurts and resentments. We are only going to find love in one place, or more precisely in one person, namely, Jesus Christ. We must let everything else – everything else – go.
Today, Jesus Christ broke the prison-bars of death, and rose triumphant from the underworld. What good would life have been to us, if Christ had not come as our Redeemer? Because of this saving event, we can be assured that our own graves will never be our final resting places, that pain and sorrow and death will be temporary, and that we who believe and follow our risen Lord have hope of life that lasts forever. Just as Christ’s own time on the cross and in the grave was brief, so our own pain, death, and burial will be as nothing compared to the ages of new life we have yet to receive. We have hope in these days because Christ is our hope, and he has overcome the obstacles to our living.
The good news today is that we can find real love today and every day of our lives, by coming to this sacred place. It is here that we hear the Word proclaimed, here that we partake of the very Body and Blood of our Lord. An occasional experience of this mystery simply will not do – we cannot partake of it on Easter Sunday only. No; we must nurture our faith by encountering our Risen Lord every day, certainly every Sunday, of our lives, by hearing that Word, and receiving his Body and Blood. Anything less than that is seeking the living one among the dead.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!