Homily for Easter Sunday
Theme: THOSE WHO HONOUR THE BODY OF CHRIST ARE THOSE WITNESSES!
By: Fr. Ben Agbo
Homily for Sunday April 12 2020
* Act 10 : 34 – 43, Col 3 : 1 – 4, Jn 20 : 1 – 9.
It is a scriptural facticity that in the life of believers, though pains and tears endure through the night but joy comes in the morning, Ps 30 :5. Friends, I welcome you to the joyful mood of the resurrection morning – when the attention of the whole world moves to the empirical evidence of the empty tomb of Jesus. I welcome you to the family of those who love Jesus – those who continue in devotion to Jesus beyond the Calvary experience – those who saw and believed and have undertaken to bear witness to his resurrection. We are those witnesses.
B. RESURRECTIONAL FAITH
St Paul says ‘If there is no resurrection then our faith is futile… & of all people we would have been the most pitiable’, 1 Cor 15 : 16. And St Peter said to the family of Cornelius in today’s 1st reading : ‘Now I & those with me can witness to everything… the fact that they killed him and 3 days God raised him to life (Dogmaticians call this the lower Christology) and allowed him to be seen not by the whole people but by certain witnesses that God has chosen before hand… Now we are those witnesses! ‘
There are 3 levels of witnesses to the Resurrection ;
(a) 1st level witnesses ; Mary Magdalene and her team of pious women… All she could deduce from what she saw was that ‘They had taken the Lord out of the tomb’.
Mary Magdalene, Mary the sister of Lazarus and other women took the 1st position because of their devotion /honour to the Body of Christ. They woke up early morning (while it was still dark) to go to pay homage to the Body of Christ (as many still do in the Catholic Church today through our morning mass devotion).
The real evidence of the resurrection of Christ was the empirical evidence of the empty tomb . The extra evidence was the rolled cloth. Only eye witnesses of the resurrection could become the first disciples and evangelists (in the new list of believers after the death of Christ). God designed that women would have this first experience but only Peter was courageous enough to confirm it by jumping into the grave (inspite of his sins and weaknesses). This confirms Christ’s earlier assurances : ‘Simon, Simon! Look, Satan demanded to sift you all like wheat ; but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must strengthen your brothers, Lk 22 : 31 – 33.
They had no sufficient theological knowledge to enable them make the necessary connections and corroborate their faith with what they saw.
(b) 2nd level witnesses ; John, the beloved, although he ran as fast as his legs could carry him and saw what looked like an empty tomb, his faith was shaky. He lacked the courage for witnessing because he could not jump inside and verify the facts well. Peter had an elder’s courage. He jumped in immidiately and carried out the confirmatory test they needed for effective witnessing. He remembered what the Lord had said earlier and these gave him the assurance to begin witnessing.
(c) 3rd level witnesses ; Every other believer in the Word of God as testified by these primary and secondary witnesses .
Resurrection is a faith experience reserved only for believers and lovers of Jesus Christ. It is not a mere subjective experience that happened only in the mind (consciousness) of the believers but a selective objective experience with the empirical evidence of the empty tomb that baffled even the soldiers on guard. Atheists have continued to spread rumours that the apostles came to take the body of Jesus in the night. But the more they said things like that the more they shot themselves in the leg since the same people who spread the rumours were the same people who sent soldiers to guard the body of Christ. Resurrectional faith is the climax of all faith in Christ.
C. POST RESURRECTIONAL WITNESSING
On a day like this we need to reaffirm the fact that witnessing to the resurrection of Christ should be our primary role as Christians. Only eye witnesses of the resurrection could become the first disciples and evangelists in the new list of believers after the death of Christ. God designed that women would be part of this first experience . How best can we all now join in this band wagon of post resurrectional witnesses in our present time?
(a) Devotion to the Holy Mass ; Every Eucharistic celebration is a witness to the resurrection of Christ as we say : Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Tell me how we would claim to honour the body of Christ if we do not respect the Holy Mass. Majority of Catholics now want to attend Wedding receptions and Funeral celebrations without the Mass.
(b) Devotion to the Word of God ; Every gathering of the Children of God must be punctuated by the Word of God. That is why Jesus said that ‘wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am in their midst’, Matt 18 : 20. The Word of God is principally a witness to the resurrection of Christ. It is called ‘Kerygma’ par excellence.
*Some of the disciples on their journey to Emmaus (7 miles away from the region of grace and faith – Jerusalem) encountered Jesus again through the sharing of the Word of God but recognized him only at the breaking of bread, Lk 24 : 48. Without devotion to the Word of God nobody can be a powerful witness of the resurrection, no priest can function effectively as a minister of God and no Christian can live as a witness to the resurrection.
(c) Living in the Spirit ; The best way of witnessing to Christ’s resurrection is by living a life in the Spirit not carnal. The 2nd reading of today enjoins us to ‘look for things that are heavenly not carnal because you have died and your life is now hidden in Christ ‘, Col 3 : 1 – 4.
*If we live in the spirit, people will know it. There is no point claiming it with mere lips. Christ said : ‘By their fruits you shall know them’, Matt 7 : 24. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are always manifest ; Joy, peace, love, patience, self control, gentleness, trustfulness, kindness, etc, Gal 5 : 22.
The rate at which many people receive Holy Communion unworthily in our Churches is growing terribly ; People fight and quarrel and receive communion the next day, people worship idols and belong to several secret cult groups and still come first to receive Holy Communion, people miss Sunday Masses, steal, lie, fornicate, gossip against their neighbour and still receive Holy Communion. I don’t know from what perspective of moral theology we come from, but I know that all grievous defraction of any of the 10 commandments are mortal sins that should make us in reverence of Christ’s body, withdraw from Holy Communion until we have reconciled with Christ sacramentally.
* No matter how we argue around it, it is those who honour the Body of Christ that are the real witnesses of the resurrection – the real Christians.
Resurrectional faith is faith par excellence. It is a faith that is not earth bound – a faith that is not this worldly. It is a faith in the life after here. Those who live in the spirit are the real witnesses. Those who honour the body of Christ are the real witnesses. Those who are devoted to preaching and living according to the Word of God are the real witnesses of the resurrection.
Happy Easter dear friends!