Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Easter Sunday Homily – 31 March 2013 – Now What Do We Do?

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Easter – March 30-31, 2013 – Now What Do We Do?

Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Ps 118:1-2,16-17,22-23; Col 3:1-4;1 Lk 24:1-12

Was it worth it? Was the crucifixion of Jesus worth it? The Testament of Mary, written by Colm Toibin, is now in previews on Broadway. I saw it last Wednesday. The play depicts the life and death of Jesus through the weeping eyes and tormented mind of his aging mother Mary, played by Fiona Shaw. Throughout his adult life his mother warned Jesus about the danger he was in. Mary even questioned and challenged the intentions of some of the disciples. She saw them as cowardly misfits concerned about their own affairs and how they might market the message of salvation. “He died so everyone could be saved?” she asked. Really? All people? Mary herself could not bear to watch the tortuous crucifixion of her son. In the end the mother of Jesus declared: “It was not worth it.”

This morning’s gospel tells us about three very surprised women who ran to tell the other disciples about the empty tomb. But the men did not trust the testimony of these women. In their minds it was unreliable. But, Joseph Ratzinger tells us, in spite of cultural factors, in this gospel the women do take precedence over the men. [1] Perhaps there are good reasons for paying more attention to what women in our church are saying.

I have often wondered what Eve said to Adam said after they ate the apple. Now what do we do? What did Miriam say to Moses after escaping Egyptian enemies as they came to the edge of the raging Red Sea. OK, brother. Now what do we do? What went through the minds of the women at the foot of cross and the threshold of the empty tomb. Now what do we do? Lent is over. Easter is here. Now what do we do? The new members of our church – Camille, Ron, Star and Wendy – who were initiated last night, might now be saying. Now what do we do? And how about those who say my church no longer speaks to me or for me. Now what do we do?

How often do we find ourselves going along in life, busy about whatever it is we do, only to encounter an interruption —  the destruction of a home, the loss of a job, the discovery of cancer in our bodies, getting the flu. Life is a series of passages. We may never get to where we want to go or do all we want to do. We are caught in what seems to be a never ending and routine cycle of ups and downs, good days and bad, joyful events and sad announcements. The stories we hear in the bible are ancient ones. Yet, they speak to us as if they were written today about our eager aspirations and our devastated dreams.

All of the symbols and songs, the prayers and processions of Lent, Holy Week and Easter are secondary to what they symbolize.They help us touch what is beyond our understanding, beyond our grasp, something that is so sacred and mysterious it is often hard to take in all at once. That which is holy comes in bits and pieces in life — in a birth, a favor, a smile, a hug, a cure, a raise in salary, an empty tomb.

So, now what do we do? The Old Testament prophets had a tradition of saying that “sacrifice without moral reform is an empty gesture.” [2] Let us not be too eager, then, to celebrate Easter or any other Christian feast for that matter if you and I are not ready to take on and try to overcome the evils in the world, the problems in our communities. The front pages of today’s papers may feature Easter egg hunts, parades and Easter finery but inside the tabloids we find articles about warfare and welfare, socio-cultural debates over gun control, reproductive rights and the definition of marriage. So, now what do we do?

The new members of our church — Camille, Ron, Star and Wendy — are fresh models for us. They show us enthusiasm for the word of God, a hunger for the eucharist and other sacraments, a desire to help others find the peace and companionship they have discovered in this church. Perhaps, they can re-energize those who are just hanging on, and, hopefully, somehow they can inspire those who have left the church.

Was it worth it asked the mother of Jesus? Was the death of Jesus worth it? Did it save us? From what? Consider how Pope Francis answered the questions. On Holy Thursday he countered long standing authoritative traditions and church rubrics by washing the feet of young men and women. The Pope himself may have remembered the admonition of the Old Testament prophets — ceremonies are empty without moral reform. As he left the detention center he turned to the prisoners and said, “Don’t let yourselves be robbed of hope. Always go forward” he said.

So, now what do we do on this Easter Sunday? Go forward. We go forward with hope!

_____________

1 Ratzinger, Joseph. Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (San Francisco: Ignatius Press) 2011, 263

2 See Wills, Garry. Why Priests? A Failed Tradition. (NY: Viking) 2013, 74

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Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

5 thoughts on “Easter Sunday Homily – 31 March 2013 – Now What Do We Do?

  1. Fr. Vosko’s inspirational message ended with a challenge – to go forward with hope! Reading that reminded me of a program at least 10 years ago with EWTN’s Fr. Benedict Groeschel offering two kinds of hope – hope with a lower case “h” and hope with a capital “H”. In fact, I used that distinction in my own homily today. Lower case “h”ope is fantasy hope…”I hope things will get better” with no sense of responsibility to make them so. Capital “H”ope is resurrection Hope which empowers and encourages us to “go forward and make a difference.”
    Thanks very much Richard for your keen spiritual insight and for prompting me to keep trying to make a difference.

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  2. Fr. Vosko, great job on the Homily. It touches on several inspirtational items for me: “That which is holy comes in bits and pieces in life — in a birth, a favor, a smile, a hug, a cure, a raise in salary, an empty tomb.” – Much like our sacraments come to us with the “invitation” to participate. Each comes at a different stage in life of faith. Those interuptions you spoke of are non-aviodable. We can take care of our health, try to help our fellow man, and even attempt to make all the right decisions on our journey, but without hope and moral reform to get us through, we will just be rearrangng the deck chairs on the Titanic.
    I’ve always interpreted “hope” as the absence of “despair.” I once heard my pastor say that wollowing in despair and complacency is one of the biggest sins we can commit. I would have to agree!

    As for our new “Holy Father”, I share your observations and enthusiasim. His sense of Servant-hood is very refreshing and perhaps now, by his example, we will see that “walk-the-walk” mantra and needed reform come to the surface of our Christian Catholic life.

    I have given an address on living the Resurrected Life to the Residents of Coxsackie serveral time now. Each time I start with “And what if you’ve been praying and praying and nothing is happening” – That’s when it’s time to reverse the turbines and instead of waiting on the Lord go out and BE a blessing to someone esle. You accomplish two things when you do that. First, God sees you doing it and He never forgets it- and second, it will distract and preoccupy you with something while you wait. In other words take the focus off you and be a servant to someone else in need. This so dovetails with being a smile, hug, or cure to a brother or sister in Christ.

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  3. What a brilliant Easter homily! Oh those words, what do we do now? Yes indeed, go forward with great hope… which for me, has been a bit easier of late. Thanks be to God.

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  4. Now what will we do? We will move forward with a hope that is so much our DNA – the marrow of our bones that we can do nothing less if we are true to ourselves. It is the why of Easter – inspite of the inner pages of the daily press. But hope must not be kept to ourselves, it must be lived out. It must be seen. Perhaps that is also our mission – to help others hope.

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  5. Richard, I loved the homily. It feels like the key is doing something. The events that we celebrated this past weekend really call for some action from us, maybe not always heroic but something that improves the world. Thanks as always for prompting us to think and inspire one another. Don

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