Do Not Be Afraid: An Easter Homily
There is a legend from the Orient about a traveler making his way to a large city. One night he met two other travelers along the road: Fear and Plague. Plague explained to the traveler that, once they arrived, they expected to kill 10,000 people in the city. The traveler asked Plague if Plague would do all the killing. “Oh, no. I 'm only going to kill only a few hundred. My friend Fear will kill the others.”
When you think about it, in a lot of ways Fear is a great equalizer. No matter what age, no matter what state of life, no matter what you’ve gone through, Fear is something we all will encounter. We will all have to deal with Fear:
- You’ve been studying, working hard for years, and graduation is coming upon you a lot sooner than you ever imagined it would. It felt like not long ago when you were sitting in a huge room filled with strangers for Freshman Orientation. Now you’re wondering . . . what’s next?
-You know that your company’s been going through some difficult times, but now the rumors of a buyout are sounding less like rumors and more like reality, and when things like this happen, more times than not someone’s losing their job. And you wonder if that someone is going to be you.
-You and your spouse have been together for a long time, but now there’s some unspoken tension, there’s been some uneasiness that wasn’t there before, there’s been some fights and you wonder if you will be able to get through this.
- The doctor says it’s just precautionary and that he just wants to set his mind at rest and he wants you to go and get this test done and you wonder what they will find.
There are countless other examples each of us can come up with relative ease.
Yes, there are an awful lot of things all of us deal with that frighten us, and a lot of them for good reason. And each year our Churches fill as people come together with many different things weighing on our minds and hearts this Easter Sunday. Wondering why we’re here. Wondering what it all means. Wondering is it worth it even coming to Mass, even coming to Church . . .
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, "Do Not Be Afraid."
That has to tell us something. That the first words we hear in today’s Gospel from Jesus Christ, risen from the dead is DO NOT BE AFRAID. To Mary Magdalene and the other Mary he’s reaching into their fear of a world where crowds embraced evil, people who’s hearts had turned to darkness so much so that they could so brutally and viciously murder Jesus, the human embodiment of Love. And he says to them, "Do not be afraid . . ."
Those aren’t just words. And I think for a lot of us, we’re used to treating them like a nice, wishful sentiment. Kind of like a Hallmark card - get well soon, wish you were here - do not be afraid. And that cheapens what Jesus did for us. Jesus suffered a great deal to be able to speak those words with the authority of one who could banish that fear.
Think back to Christmas, from the very beginning of Jesus’ life, God seems to be telling us something through the coming of His Son Jesus: When Mary and Joseph hear they will be parents of God’s only Son, it seems (at best) unbelievable – do not be afraid Mary, you’ve found favor with God; do not be afraid Joseph to take Mary to be your wife . . .
And throughout His life, Jesus constantly healed people of their fears - through forgiveness of their sins, through miraculous healings, through the raising people from the dead. And you can sense or see that people were amazed, but not convinced. “Who does Jesus think he is?” they wondered after Palm Sunday . . . This wasn’t the political leader, the Messiah who would restore Israel and knock the Romans into their place. No he was seen as a threat to everyone who had any power or authority - from the controlling Romans to the limited Jewish leaders.
Their fear of letting go of their wants, their desires, their understanding of who God is and what God wants to do for all of his people blocked them from embracing him. And so they choose darkness in deciding he was too much trouble to deal with. "Crucify Him."
That’s what Easter confronts us with – Easter calls us out – are we amazed by this story but not convinced either? Is it an incredible tale that we’ve heard over and over but it’s just too impossible for us to really believe?
Because if we’re coming here looking to be dazzled by some miraculous sign - amazed by some new feat - we will be disappointed; Jesus isn’t a magician. And all the things that worry us, that keep us up at night that we are afraid over are still going to be there when we leave Church after Easter Sunday Mass.
Unless we cast off our fears, we won’t be able to experience the Risen Jesus Christ in our lives.
If we don’t believe that the same God who let his Son suffer and die for us . . .
We will wallow in all of the fears that we were burdened with when we first walked into Church on Easter Sunday morning.
But if we believe the words of the angel, “DO NOT BE AFRAID. I KNOW YOU ARE SEEKING JESUS THE CRUCIFIED. HE IS NOT HERE. HE HAS BEEN RAISED”, if we behold the Risen Jesus who comes to us right here, right now on our way as we deal with our own darkness, plagued by our own Good Friday stories, then the Easter story becomes our story. Then the resurrection becomes real in our lives. Jesus says to us today "Do Not Be Afraid," and if we let go of our fear we, too, will see Him.
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May 8, 2015
Do Not Be Afraid: An Easter Homily
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