Sunday, April 21, 2019


At the entrance to Jerusalem’s Church of All Nations, next to the Garden of Gethsemane, there is a sign warning every visitor: No explanations inside the Church. It’s intended to discourage overly talkative tour guides from disturbing the church’s prayerful atmosphere with lectures.  

I don’t have any explanations of the resurrection for you. I’m convinced that one must experience the resurrection for oneself. The gospel proclamation always involves an invitation. And receiving that proclamation and accepting the invitation is always new and personal to each one of us. Authentic gospel proclamation always carries with it a  shift from before to now. A shift from the lives of the disciples who came to the tomb those many years ago, to our lives here and now. God wants to deepen our Easter faith experience through the gospel.

The story begins with the obvious - Jesus is dead, and his followers assume that he remains dead. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been coming to the tomb to anoint his dead body. Their discovery that the tomb is empty doesn’t immediately lead to some sort of pleasant enlightenment experience. In fact, it brings confusion and not clarity. Then the women receive a message: “Why do you seek the Living One among the dead? He is not here; he has been raised up.” In other words, he is no longer a dead memory. The women’s encounter with the resurrection is through a message.  This really brings their Easter experience close to our own. Because this is all we have: the word, the message of resurrection. And it’s a message that flies in the face of our normal experience that the dead remain dead. It flew in the face of the apostles’ experience also. When the women went to them to tell them the message they had received at the tomb “their words seemed to them an idle tale.”

So often our experience teaches us that death ultimately wins. And this is where the Easter proclamation encounters each one of us - the message invites us to move beyond our belief in the certainty of death to belief in new life and new possibilities. And this belief begins with a ‘maybe’ - “Maybe it’s true!” or “What if it is true!” The apostles remained convinced that the message was nonsense, nothing more than an idle tale. And yet the message was so outrageous that Peter had to go and look for himself. He couldn’t help but wonder, “What if it is true?” And that ‘what if’ set him off on the journey of a lifetime. And it will set us off, if we let it!

We all are invited to follow in the footsteps of Peter. We’ve heard the rumor that Jesus is alive: What if it’s true? What would life be like then? What would my life, right now, mean? The resurrection is not the property of the past. It is God’s future breaking into the present of our lives here and now. Easter isn’t something we remember. It’s something we live and breathe. Through the living Jesus we receive the gift of life. Would God offer us anything less?

Excerpts from Abbot Damian's Easter homily.