//STEALING FROM THE POPE (Knowing he’ll forgive me)

STEALING FROM THE POPE (Knowing he’ll forgive me)


Here is my homily (or rather some words I added to stealing Pope Francis’ homily – as you will read ahead) for EASTER SUNDAY – APRIL 20, 2014. The readings for today can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/ readings/042014.cfm – Thanks for reading, sharing on facebook, reddit and twitter and all your feedback. God Bless and HAPPY EASTER! – Fr. Jim


Yesterday morning I had an Easter homily that I had spent a fair amount of time obsessing over the three days of the Triduum. I wasn’t quite sure why I was spending so much time since I knew that we would have an incredibly small congregation in comparison to our usual sundays (one of the crazy inverses that we experience in Campus Ministry – here a Sunday when most churches are packed, we have the opposite as most of our students go home to celebrate with their families, but I digress) and worse still after all that time I wasn’t thrilled with what I had come up with, but figured it would be good enough.

And I don’t know – throughout the day I had a bunch of mixed emotions. I was kind of down. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which I was thinking back to friend of mine who had died back in September. He had been our landscaper here at Newman for about 6 years (and I knew him for 7 years before that from my first parish assignment). Between our new landscapers coming and hearing leaf blowers for the first time in 5 months after a long and harsh winter for our first Spring clean up and it being Tim’s birthday this past week, which I kind of skipped out of a gathering of friends – officially because I was so busy with Holy Week and all – but more honestly I just didn’t want to think about his death again. I know that was part of the reason I felt down.

At one point yesterday I wanted to just spend time in our chapel. And I had forgottenthat the tabernacle was empty since Good Friday…- as we await this celebration of Easter where the Risen Christ who is made real in every celebration of the Eucharist will once again be reserved in our tabernacle… but seeing the empty chapel, the empty tabernacle, the light from the sanctuary lamp as a perpetual sign of Jesus’ presence being extinguished it all clicked my mood – and the liturgical life of the Church seemed to connect: Darkness. We talk about it. We talk about carrying and enduring our crosses. But we forget how it can feel. How real that is. We can ignore wanting to acknowledge them – embarrassed by our continued weakness in the face of them. We can let our egos get in the way claiming that we won’t be crushed by them (or in a fake piety that we’re gently, lovingly accepting our crosses when in not-so-secret we hate them)

Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t feeling so inspired and surprisingly blah during these holiest of holy days. And really rare for a priest, I had “off” these days (which I doubt will happen again) – so I’ve been trying to make them a mini-retreat and have been worshiping at a parish in New York City – an “Anti-Cheers” – “Where nobody knows my name” 🙂 ) So as I was standing outside the Church waiting for the Easter Vigil to start, I decided to read the Holy Father’s Easter Vigil Homily. And I found myself moved to tears on the sidewalk there reading it that I decided when I came home to throw out what I had prepared and heavily lift from his homily. (Steal/borrow/quote… whatever you want to call it… My heart was more moved by his words then anything I had prepared)

To set the stage the Gospel tells us that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are in darkness. They are in darkness emotionally and spiritually – Jesus was killed right in front of their eyes. They are coming in darkness physically as the sun was only beginning to dawn. And we hear of an earthquake, and an angel who’s appearance is like lightning and white – scaring the hell (literally) out of the guards – rolling away the stone. And showing the Empty Tomb. JESUS THE CRUCIFIED – HE IS NOT HERE – HE HAS BEEN RAISED JUST AS HE SAID! This amazing news to the women, to the disciples who had been covered in the darkness of despair, of seeing their faith, hope and love die on a cross was just too amazing to comprehend. And here’s where Pope Francis’ words really touched me:

And then there was his command to go to Galilee; the women had heard it twice, first from the angel and then from Jesus himself: “Let them go to Galilee; there they will see me”.

Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began! To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called. Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets. He had called them, and they left everything and followed him (cf. Mt 4:18-22).

To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory. To re-read everything – Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal – to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love.
Pope Francis then continued reminding us that: For each of us, too, there is a “Galilee”  the origin of our journey with Jesus. “To go to Galilee” means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience.

To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey. From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters. That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.

In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also a more existential “Galilee”: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call,
when Jesus passed my way,
gazed at me with mercy
and asked me to follow him.

It means reviving the memory of that moment
when his eyes met mine,
the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.
Francis then challenged us: Today, tonight, each of us can ask: What is my Galilee? Where is my Galilee? Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it? Lord, help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy.

My brothers and sisters – in a few days some of our members will be experiencing the Easter Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist which will be for sure a Galilee moment. Some of you have had life-changing moments, conversions (where you never knew Jesus before and now you have) or a “re-version” where the faith you had been given that you were baptized in you had drifted away and come back to the faith – which are Galilee’s as well. 

What moved me to tears last night was the gentle and loving reminder that in many ways – you are one of my Galilee’s. And that gives me great joy. I’ve experienced the resurrection so many times I’m embarrassed that I can forget it… frustrated that the darkness can still get to me. And I suppose I’m not the only one who experiences and goes through that as well.

The Gospel of Easter is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection. This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth.