Today is the present when the future begins. Look at the signs of hope!
We have an empty tomb and a folded linen cloth – but wait! In today’s Gospel, of Jesus himself there is no sign.
Next Sunday, we’ll read how Jesus appeared to the group of apostles and showed himself to doubting Thomas. But for Easter Sunday, we’re left in doubt and confusion – just like the disciples on the first Easter morning. And perhaps that’s more appropriate for us. Unlike the apostles, we haven’t seen the risen Jesus. Like them, we experience a mixture of faith and doubt.
We doubt because we have intellectual questions about God – if he loves us, why is the world in such a mess?
We doubt because we have mixed feelings about God – does he really love me personally when my life is such a mess?
We doubt because we’ve heard the rumours, but we can’t see the Lord of life with our own eyes.
Yet we’re here on Easter Sunday morning because deep down, we believe. And we see the signs today of the hope we hold for tomorrow.
Scripture says there was another cloth, the one which had covered the face of Christ, rolled up and put to one side. How much we look forward to the day when we can take the cloths covering our faces, roll them up, and put them away for good! That detail might also remind us that Moses had to cover his face to hide the reflected glory of God – but now Jesus has shown us God’s glory, not only by rising from the dead but by the way he died, embracing all of faults and sins. It’s only when we understand the spiritual consequences of this that we see the cross truly is the place where a hero gave his life to save the human race. In another letter, St Paul wrote that we too would have unveiled faces to reflect the glory of Christ – in today’s letter, we are reminded that in the future we will share in Christ’s resurrection. For this we wait in expectant hope!
Faith and doubt go together. It’s because we’re surrounded by doubt, that each Easter, we’re invited to renew our baptismal promises. This isn’t meant to be a mere ritual we perform because it’s Easter Sunday. In this computer age it’s all too easy to click “Yes” to the terms and conditions, without thinking through what we’re doing. But what we do today needs thought. It’s meant to be a personal and deliberate choice to live our lives God’s way – your promise to me, to one another, and to God.
Promises matter. American Football Coach Bill McCartney, founder of a Christian men’s network called the Promise Keepers, once told a story about how he prepared his team for a crucial match. Each player was asked to reflect on what they were going to do. Then each player had to come, personally, and tell the coach what he intended to do on game day. At the big match, the team played better than anyone expected.* Each player kept his promise.
In a few moments, you’ll be asked to make three promises.
“I renounce Satan.” This is more than repenting of sin. To “renounce” is to say: I want nothing to do with this! I am not only sorry that I gave in to sin when I was tempted; I don’t want that sin to have any lasting hold on me. I will do everything in my power never to fall into sin again!
Don’t believe the lie that you are unforgiveable or that God doesn’t care about you. Our Father in heaven simply wants us to be set free. Will I be a victim or walk in freedom? Will I let the Enemy bully me into not being the best version of myself? Just declaring that we renounce Satan helps us overcome that fear.
Coach McCartney would ask what you’re going to do this year, to break any ongoing temptation and kick Satan out of your life!
“I believe in God.” To believe is more than a mental exercise of holding an idea in your head. To “believe” is literally “to put your faith in”. Like the Apostles, because we receive Holy Communion, we can declare: “We have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead.” With the Apostles, we share in the Great Commission: he ordered us to proclaim that God has appointed Jesus to judge everyone, alive or dead. All who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven.
How often will we put our trust in Christ’s command to eat his flesh as the Bread of Life, or make an act of Spiritual Communion on days then this is not physically possible?
How often will we tell other people that Jesus will forgive anyone who turns to him, but will also pass sentence on anyone who dies without asking forgiveness?
Coach McCartney would ask what you’re going to do this year, because you put your trust in Jesus, the Saviour of the world!
“I believe in the Catholic Church.” To put your faith in the Church needs a personal commitment to making the community where you worship the very best that it can be, taking part and using your gifts fully.
One more question, though not one the liturgy asks us today. “Do you believe in yourself?” The crowd is watching you. Your coach believes in you, and wants to give you confidence you can play to win. Our Christian life is a team effort. If you are on the Lord’s team, you are already on the winning side. Alone you can do nothing, but together we are unstoppable.
Perhaps you already know what you will do to live out your baptismal promises in the next 12 months. If so, I encourage you to write something in the chat! … Today is the present where the future begins. We are not alone – Christ is risen from the dead, Alleluia!