Archbishop Aquila preached this homily during Easter Sunday Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on April 5, 2015.
The angel speaks to us today on this Easter of 2015: “Do not be amazed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, crucified. He has been raised. He is not here. Behold the place where they laid Him. But go and tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him as He told you.’”
And those words are addressed to us. The Lord calls us into relationship with Him, to see that He is truly risen, to stand at the empty tomb. Even though the women had heard Jesus preach, even though His disciples had heard Him preach, they did not truly believe. Their god was fear, not the God of Jesus Christ. They go to the tomb, thinking they will find a body. Even though He told them that in three days He would be raised, that He would rebuild the temple. Even though He told them of the resurrection, they still went to the tomb to anoint the body. And then they are amazed when they find no body there. In other passages, even Mary Magdalene is concerned (about) who stole the body—where is the body? Who took the body?
Why are our hearts so slow to believe? To put our trust and confidence in He who is the Son of God? Even after all of the miracles that the disciples had seen, and even after you and I read the Gospels—Who is our God? Who do we believe in?
And St. Paul in writing his letter to the Thessalonians reminds them to seek what is above, not what is here on earth, because St. Paul knows everything on this earth is going to pass away. Even this incredibly beautiful Cathedral is going to pass away. And every one of us is going to pass away.
Who is our god? Is our god success? Is our god advancing in our career? Is our god money? Is it alcohol? Is it drugs? Is it being number one? Is our god sexual encounters? None of those—none of those can give you eternal life. And none of those will ever satisfy your heart. The only one who can satisfy the human heart is Jesus Christ, and He alone. The only one who can forgive sins and give to us the gift of eternal life is Jesus Christ, and He alone. The only one who is the Truth is Jesus Christ and He alone. The only one who is mercy, who is love, who is forgiveness, who only desires the good for every human being is Jesus Christ, and He alone.
And today we gather to celebrate that good news in the midst of a world that is so confused and so turned upside down—in a world that, Pope Francis lamented, totally overlooks the massacre of Christians that takes place. Our governments do not want to admit that Christians are being persecuted throughout the world. Who is our god? Who is your god?
We are called to give witness to Jesus Christ in our daily life. We are called to put Him first. We are invited by Jesus to be His friends, to fall in love with Him and stay in love with Him. Have you fallen in love with Jesus? Do you truly know and love Him and follow Him? Willing to admit as those Kenyans who were martyred at the University on Good Friday, “Yes, I am Christian.”? And they were shot and killed for being Christian. Who is our god?
Today we celebrate the good news that sin and death have been conquered by Jesus Christ. Today we celebrate new Christians entering into the Catholic Church, joining us in our sacramental life because they know who their God is. It is not the false gods of the world—of success, of career, of money, of drugs, of alcohol, of sexual encounters…and the list could go on. Their God is Jesus Christ. And that is what we celebrate—He who has set us free because He is faithful to His promises. As the angels said to them, “You will see Him as He told you.” Do we believe as He has told us and put our faith and trust and confidence in Him?
Because His promises are amazing, Jesus does not say “Whatever you think is okay.” But rather, He says, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” And He is the Truth, and He is the only one who can set us free from all of our idols, from all of our false gods, from our lack of faith. He is the only one who can give us true peace and true joy: “For I have told you all this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete, as He told you.”
And so as we continue with our celebration of the Eucharist on this Easter Sunday, I encourage each and every one of us to ponder in our hearts—who is our god? My beloved brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters, I beg you in the name of Jesus Christ, come to put your faith and trust in Him. Come to know Him and to love Him. Fall in love with Him and stay in love with Him, and live your faith day in and day out. What the world offers will only satisfy the human heart for a brief period. It will never give it the satisfaction that Jesus Christ, and He alone gives. And as you ponder who your false gods are, be not afraid to bring those to Jesus and ask Him to free you from those false gods because the more you fall in love with Him, the more will you be set free. Open your hearts and hear the Good News because it is good news. You are set free.
And if you are able to receive Holy Communion today, speak heart-to-heart with Jesus. Pray for a deeper faith, a deeper trust, a deeper confidence. Speak heart-to-heart with Him: where your doubts might be, or who your false gods are. But know that He receives you in love and mercy because He so desires you to be free from the slavery of sin. He so desires you to be free from the false gods. He so desires you to have eternal life with Him, but it requires putting your faith, your trust, and your confidence in Him. Open your hearts and receive our Lord. And may we hear the Good News that is given to us today that is given by the angel. And may it penetrate our hearts: “Do not be amazed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised. He is not here. Go and tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him as He told you.’” Who is your god and do you seek Jesus today?