Bishop Perry's Homily - Easter, 2021

We were blessed to welcome His Excellency Bishop Joseph Perry of the Archdiocese of Chicago to celebrate a Pontifical High Mass for Easter Sunday, April 4th. It was a pleasure to hear His Excellency speak in his homily, enclosed below, on the sorrow of Good Friday and the inexpressible joy of Our Lord's Resurrection three days later.


Each Easter we renew the vows of our baptism which sealed us in Christ’s legacy because we need to keep focus. The day of our baptism we said “yes” to Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, each day, each of us can still say: 'I want to be converted to Christ. I want to repent of any sinfulness in my life that I am holding on to' spending as much as we can of our lives recognizing our pathologies and our biases. In Christian terms this means embracing the way of humility and love because such was the Christ we love and admire.


The video will begin at His Excellency's homily.


His Excellency Bishop Joeph Perry's homily at St John Cantius,

Easter Sunday, April 4th, 2021


A very blessed Easter festival to each of you! Thank you for worshiping with us here at St. John Cantius on this the church’s feast of feasts!


Easter begins in the darkness of the night arising from the hopelessness of pain and despair. Easter is Easter precisely due to the awful events of days before in Jerusalem. But for believers Easter spells the stubborn hope of a God who recreates us and our world until His dream of a humanity bound in his love is realized. In his rising from the dead Jesus enables us to bring into our own lives all that He taught and revealed so that it can uplift our lives and enkindle our joy.

II

Can you imagine how emotionally draining this weekend was for those first believers who witnessed or were even remotely aware of the savage treatment of the Savior that ended in his death on a cross? Yet, how electrifying it was for them to receive the news early this morning that the tomb was found empty by several women disciples. Those first believers had to trace back in order to piece together in their minds the Lord’s words predicting all this and its meaning for the promises of life delivered to them and to the world.


It became the great proclamation we deliver to the world each year on this day, namely, that our God in Jesus is alive when evil men meant Him dead. And since then nothing can ever be the same anymore. Life now has new purpose, a new destiny in Christ. We can now take up the struggle of life knowing that all has its finality in Jesus. We paraphrase St. Paul’s words here where he says in his letter to the Philippians {3},


“I consider the pangs of this life nothing when compared with the glory that is being prepared for us with Him!”


Easter, friends, is the conviction that experiences like compassion, empathy and generosity can overcome hatred, despair, greed, even death – all these experiences converge on Easter’s miracle. The empty tomb is the sign of perfect hope that we can become the people God created us to be for Him and for one another. May we live then not in fear of the darkness of Good Friday but move into the light of Easter hope, in the raised One who lives forever in our midst.

III

Indeed, we have seen Good Friday play itself out on a number of fronts in recent days. The Church realizes its role in pointing out the truth of Jesus our Light in a world darkened by sin and misfortune. So, so many live lamentable conditions of life that fuel the outcry of the poor, the scarcity of jobs and resources out there push people to the sidelines to live lives of misery. And, as we have seen there are consequences of this misery that disturb sinner and saint alike among us, namely, the rabid inequality of life’s benchmarks that spawns violence, urban violence that unfortunately gives rise to quick and unreasoned judgments about people who live on the fringes.


So, so many people suffer economic assaults in the name of lack of employment, under-employment, inability to meet mortgages and rents and expenses in the name of health care and provisions for their children. Is the term “crisis’ strong enough to explain what all is happening?


Our Archbishop, Cardinal Blase Cupich, collected donations from in and around our local church and called the collection, The COVID Relief Fund, to help parishes with routine ministries of distributing food, clothing and helping people avoid eviction because they are unable to pay their rents. How wonderful it is to see the Church in action this way. It’s how Catholic Charities got started back in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Catholic Charities has continued its services to the down-and-out uninterruptedly to this day. We can proudly say it is what we do best as Catholics.


Consider the deplorable conditions of life and political turmoil and crime that result in the massive trek of people from their homelands looking for relief and safety here and a future for their children. We think of the children in this city and in cities across the country when they explode in racially charged violence.

We think of Christian communities in Syria and Iraq which are remembered for their biblical foundations back to the days of St. Paul but are today destroyed by unconscionable acts of fanaticism. We think of Bethlehem where the Christ Savior was born mandated now as a ghetto populated by a people who trace their lineage to Christ and King David but who are today pushed to the margins. All of this begs for prayer and a Christian voice.


We dream of solutions to the problems challenging society and the church. But living in hope also compels us to volunteer, to study the issues, to actually be part of the solution. This is how Christians deal with the perennial challenges. We imagine a more unified, less divisive world – yes, but living in a spirit of hope also means we act with kindness and understanding and be agents of reconciliation within our own families, communities and churches.


We wish to be spared the Virus, but living in hope is to understand the need to take the recommended precautions, steer clear of blaming others for the specter of this health crisis, offer our help to the sick and suffering where possible trusting that our sacrifices within definite discomforts of one sort or another in the end will bring health and healing to everyone.


Our Sunday Visitor based in Huntington, Indiana, the largest Catholic publishing company in the United States, recently held a webcast of influential Catholics from around the country for some conversation about where the Church is and what Church should be doing in these uncertain times aggravated by a pandemic the likes of which this generation has never seen. The conversation surfaced some notes for reflection, namely that:


Since last summer the country’s been navigating a gauntlet of political conflict, and dealing with a major national reckoning on race all against the backdrop of ideological polarization. While all this has been playing out on the nation’s stage the rest of us have been trying to keep ourselves healthy and looking for meaningful ways to connect with one another amidst isolation, looking for solutions to difficulties that have a depth that match our dignity and our Christian calling; making sure we are doing all we can in a kingdom-building way and not a kingdom-destructive way.


Atlantic magazine’s April 2021 issue has an article titled, “America Without God,“ framing the issues this way: “... if secularists hoped that declining religiosity would make for more rational politics drained of faith’s inflaming passions they are likely disappointed. As Christianity's hold in particular has weakened, ideological intensity and fragmentation have risen.” And to what end, we might ask?


The question lingers out there and begs for an answer: What is the role of religion in public life? Though this country wasn’t founded as a Christian nation, Christianity was always intertwined with America’s self-definition.


And while folks are embroiled in fisticuffs over this and other questions on CNN and FOX practicing Christians almost universally would say, most of all we need the Gospel to get through whatever challenges we face to re-ignite faith, to first recommit ourselves to the Gospel starting with a focus on the requirement of holiness of life by saying “yes” to Jesus Christ. This begs a return to the basics, to the One source who stands at the center of why the Church exists in the first place and why we persevere in the Christian way of life – and that is the person of Jesus Christ. The life and death of no man has ever meant so much for so many over the stretch of two millennia and counting. Our lives in all their trauma and all their joy are secured by lives of prayer, devotion to duty and good works and kindly words uttered to one another.


IV

Each Easter we renew the vows of our baptism which sealed us in Christ’s legacy because we need to keep focus. The day of our baptism we said “yes” to Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, each day, each of us can still say: “I want to be converted to Christ. I want to repent of any sinfulness in my life that I am holding on to” spending as much as we can of our lives recognizing our pathologies and our biases. In Christian terms this means embracing the way of humility and love because such was the Christ we love and admire.


I find it interesting that Jesus’ body upon resurrection supplied him with a perfected body capable of coming and going without physical limitations, a body no longer subjected to illness or imperfection. Jesus visited his followers any number of times beginning with Sunday’s resurrection without knocking on the door. In a wink of an eye He was suddenly there. And he disappeared as instantly as he arrived!


Remarkably, Jesus’ body in midst of this perfection retained the wounds of the crucifixion. All else about the Lord was renewed and invigorated.


What was/what is the purpose of holding on to His wounds? When He appeared to his disciples today He had his wounds to show them as fresh as they were inflicted that Friday before. All Christian art subsequently depicting the risen Jesus shows a perfected body with the wounds of the crucifixion in his hands, feet and side. When we each meet up with the Lord in the next life our gaze at Him will immediately be focused on those ghastly wounds of his crucifixion.


And, yes, we all have scars in life that continue to teach us and define us. Our nail marks remind us that all pain and grief, all ridicule and anguish, all our disappointments are transformed into healing in the love of God. We, therefore, shouldn’t be afraid of life’s nail marks and scars, the bleeding and the crushed spirit and the broken heart. Compassion, empathy, forgiveness, justice, no matter how clumsily offered can heal and mend. But with the assurance of God’s unlimited grace even the simplest act of kindness is an actualization of Easter in our midst.


Clearly, we don’t want to be stuck at Good Friday. Easter means that we dare to live in hope: a hope that frees us from our graves of fear and confusion that in turn pulls us out of our graves of doubt, denial and the virus of cynicism that poisons of life.


Let’s live our lives in the hope of God’s grace that in the Christ who goes before us into Galilee to meet up with us along life’s way we can transform our own little Galilees into the kingdom of God’s mercy. Easter is meant to free us from all that anchors us to this valley of tears.


In the meanwhile, on this day of new life in Christ while we continue to wrestle with answers to the puzzling questions, it is indeed good to see all of you. We wish to thank you for your faith and your hope, your sober words of calm in midst of conflict and mistaken reference. Thank you for your generosity so eloquently evident with various causes and programs of the Church and beyond that lift people to see more clearly the light of the risen Christ in their lives. ✠

Bishop Joseph N Perry



 

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