8 April 2007 Easter Sunday
Homily for Fr. William Garcia’s Thanksgiving Mass
Easter is about stories. It began in a garden when God lived in harmony with Adam and Eve. But a talking snake who lived on a tree in the middle of the garden had caused them to live outside of its gates. It continued with Adam and Eve outside of the garden begetting Cain and Abel and a whole lot of generations begetting other generations. It is continued with old Abraham beginning a new chosen race, and Moses leading them from Egyptian bondage to the promised land. Until all of history zeroed in on a town in Nazareth to a virgin named Mary who begot a child by the Holy Spirit and born in Bethlehem because of a census ordered by the Emperor. The child was soon condemned to death, but believed to have risen from the dead. Its proof remains to be an empty tomb discovered by women, early in the morning, who saw that the stone of his tomb was moved and an angel telling them that He was no longer there. Fr. Jett Villarin SJ, told us last night, “You know the story.”
Easter is about retelling that story to generations and generations who came after that brutal death and the discovery of the empty tomb. It is about remembering the events year after year that brought humanity to salvation. It is about remembering God who lead us through our own stories of pain and suffering and eventually opening our tombs to give us a new life. It is about recalling the victories of our lives after a series of sacrifices for love’s sake — or perhaps, for the dreams we pursue. Easter is about our stories. It is about the story of our lives and how God has created and recreated our stories that the garden becomes our garden, Abraham’s journey becomes our journey, and the Israelite’s story becomes the metaphor of our snippets of experiences, and the story of Jesus becomes the story of our lives. Easter is discovering that our stories are interconnected; the force of love connects us all.
When Dante Alighieri used the poetic metaphor that love is the force that moves the stars and the planets, contemporary science tells us that this is more than just poetry. Dante’s words describe the inherent quality of the universe. The love that continues to create stars and to shape the sprawling galaxies is the same energy revealed when we gaze on our beloved and when we receive affection from our friends. It is the same quiet passion that stirs in our blood and quickens our heartbeat when we are in the presence of someone we enjoy. It is the same energy that moves us when we watch Smallville together; watch a movie with all of us UP priests on Wednesday nights or have coffee in a quiet cozy place. The same energy that makes Fr Choy run from UP to some other place at the beck and call of a need for a musician in one of those investitures. The same reason why our musicians, singers and dancers returned to celebrate Easter with us.
Evidence of the profound connection between energy and matter, between flesh and spirit comes from other scientific sources as well. When researchers place matter in nuclear accelerators to break it down in search of the elemental building blocks — the stuff of the universe — they discover in practical terms, what Einstein and Heisenberg and other physicists were trying to tell us in theory. Subatomic particles exists as either particles OR waves, as matter OR energy. In other words, matter and energy exists in a spectrum of continuity; implying that matter and energy, body and soul, flesh and spirit are not contraries or opposites; they are simply differing configurations of God’s creative energy. Thomas Berry said, “We bear the universe in our being”.
We bear the BIG Salvation story in our personal lives. And thus, when we remember how Jesus was condemned, we remember the times when we too were condemned. When we remember how Jesus was abandoned and betrayed by his closest friends, we remember our own experiences of abandonment and betrayal. When Jesus was crucified on the cross, we remember the brutal massacres and slaying of people — including our students — who until now have not been found. When Jesus was laid on the tomb, we remember our own experiences when other people stopped us from doing what we love to do for God; and in our helplessness entombed our frustrations in the cave of humility. When Jesus rose from the dead, we too remember the little Easters of our lives. Thus it is no wonder that many of us have great reverence for the Bible; because in it is written our stories. But more so because in Scripture we find what we truly are, and how important we are: the God who does not need us has chosen to die for our sakes.
And so we are at this point in our stories. For Fr. Choy and Jojo, and perhaps all of us priests, we remember that our primary work is not to decorate altars, but to tell that story. When Fr. Choy and Jojo were ordained, I remembered my own ordination. When Fr. Raymond got ordained, he was told to remember how cold the floor was when they were prostrate on the altar. We do not know what lies ahead. But we only knew who will share our stories. It is this same reason, why our former deacon is now a priest; why he is here with us. We have been part of his story, as well as our stories have him. It is for this same reason that we celebrate. Easter is celebrating our stories! It is the time of singing and dancing! Easter is celebrating the God who writes them. Easter is celebrating the love that keeps us alive!
*Fr. Choy with the Canto Cinco (C5) choir and Musica Chiesa (musicians) after his thanksgiving mass.