Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Easter Sunday Homily – 5 April 2015 – From Fear to Freedom

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Easter B – April 5, 2015 – From Fear to Freedom

Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23; 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; John 20:1-9

What a wonderful coincidence that Easter and Passover are celebrated this weekend. Both festivals speak of freedom and liberation.

At every Seder meal one of the younger children at the table asks a traditional question, “Why will this year’s Seder be different from all others?” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, suggests this year Jews need the Seder ritual more than ever.

Jacobs wrote that Jews are feeling disheartened and divided from their faith, their people and their homeland. The Seder is not a time to run away from frightening questions surrounding the Middle East but rather engaging with these issues.

Here a young child in our assembly asks me a similar question. “Father! Why will this Easter Mass be different from all others?”

This is good question. On Passion Sunday I asked what are we afraid of most of all? Last night at the Easter Vigil we heard stories of fear and oppression and of deliverance and freedom. We celebrated the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, our shining light in the night. We welcomed two women into our faith community. Beth Bassinson and Jessica Burns gave witness to the way God works in their lives. This morning we too ponder again how does the mystery of God unfold in our lives and the lives of others?

The stories we tell at Mass are important to us just as the stories Jews tell are consequential to them. NY Times columnist David Brooks wrote, “Storytellers expand the consciousness, waken the sleeping self and give their hearers the words and motifs to use for themselves. Jews tell the story of the Exodus [to] each generation to understand the fears they feel at that moment.”

We Christians tell new testament stories along with old testament ones. They are similar. Jews remember the passover of their ancestors from slavery to freedom. We tell the story of Jesus as our passover who frees us and others from whatever fears we might have, even death.

Rabbi Jacobs recalled for his readers the dry matzah at the Seder reminds them of poverty and oppression; the bitter herbs awaken spiritual empathy for those who are suffering today. He said the ancient story of the Jewish people illuminates the social justice issues of today.

This past Holy Thursday, Betsy Rowe-Manning who pastors this faith community, said the last supper account is not included in the gospel of John. Betsy reminded us that the washing of feet is synonymous with sharing the eucharistic meal. The liturgy we celebrate in here is the same as our social action out there. The sacramental bread and wine on our holy table resonate with the sustenance we share with others in our food pantries, prisons, counseling centers and hospitals.

Why will this Easter liturgy be different from all others? A lot depends on you and me. It starts in here at this Easter liturgy, a rehearsal for what we do out there. When hope does not seem to be a good strategy for dealing with our fears, the virtue of faith can strengthen our resolve. Empathetic acts of charity can free up ourselves and others from whatever holds us back.

The word Easter, many believe, is derived from the Anglo Saxon name Oestre the mythological goddess of Spring and the sunrise. Today, we celebrate rising up from death. The Jews celebrate liberation from oppression. Both of these yearnings require more of us — a daily struggle to replace malice and fear with works of truth and sincerity.

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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.

2 thoughts on “Easter Sunday Homily – 5 April 2015 – From Fear to Freedom

  1. I always enjoy your homilies, whether I read them online or hear them in person. Easter Sunday we were joined at St. Vincent’s by our visiting son and daughter and her family. I deeply appreciated the linking of Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet with the works of justice and charity we are called to do, I would also include the ordinary works we all perform each day in service to the community. Our son and daughter and her husband spend themselves in their jobs as surgical monitoring technician, homemaker and bio-waste plant manager. I’m sure these count too as washing one another’s feet.

    Thank you for your excellent ongoing and constant homilies which so nourish and sustain our faith.

    Ed Dilgen

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  2. Thank you for both of your thoughtful homilies. Unfortunately I was visiting in another city and the “homily” was all about the church’s new facebook page. Both homilies gave me good food for thought, especially are we are one with Christ, one another and nature and how that comforts and motivates us.

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