Sunday, April 15, 2018

giving thanks for the Resurrection

Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed – Alleluia!

In our Gospel reading today our Lord, having come to spend time with his disciples, shows that he is truly a living man of flesh and blood and bone. He touches things. He eats food. They both see him and hear him. And at the end of his time with them, he tells they are witnesses to what they have seen and heard and they are to preach to all the nations his good news of penance and remission of sins to all nations.

They were his witnesses. And in this season of the resurrection, it makes me wonder when it was that all here first heard that good news – that Jesus was risen from the dead. Truly, I must say I can not say the precise moment when I first heard that good news. My first memories connected with religion is of when I was a small boy, kneeling with my brother by the side of the bed as our mother taught us our prayers. My sister was too young to be with us, still being a baby in her cot. And as I am two years older than her I must have been somewhere between the ages of two and three. I do not remember the precise moment, as I said, when I first heard the resurrection mentioned; but it was most likely at that young age with my mother and brother.

A few days ago I came across a short video clip on line of a man who remembered precisely when he first heard of the Resurrection. He was an elderly bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Ioan (John) of Timisoara, and he told the story in a very moving way. Allow me to tell you in his own words how it was that he told the story. My telling, I am afraid, will not do justice to the heart-felt emotion with which he told it. You must imagine a very old man with a long white beard; his eyes are full of tears as he speaks; and he says what he has to say very slowly, because he has to stop often, so choked is he with emotion at the memory of what it is that he is recounting:

I will tell you when I received the good news in my life. When I was in the cradle, on Easter night, my mother went to the church for the service of Resurrection. And… She came back home with the lit candle. Leaning over my cradle, making the sign of the cross with the lit candle she whispered to me: “Christ is Risen!” Since then, I believe in the Resurrection, because my mother never lied to meBrothers and sisters, I also believe that your mothers never lied to you…”

He does not give his exact age for when this took place. Now, he says he was in his cradle; but the Romanian word he uses might equally well translate as cot, and as he remembers the details we may estimate that he was a small boy, a toddler, perhaps around two. Why was he so emotional as he told the story? Well, perhaps it was simply because he was an old man being a little bit sentimental, remembering a tender moment from when he was a small child with his mother who has long since gone to her grave. But it is more likely his tears are a combination of joy and sorrow. Joy as he thinks back to the time when his mother gave him the most precious gift one person can give another – the wondrous central truth of our faith that Christ is risen … and sorrow as he thinks of all those who have been offered that great gift, lovingly by their mother, or perhaps their father … only for that gift to be rejected … if not openly, by their child's later failure to lead a Christian life … or even try to do so.

That sorrow would not just be for the one who has so foolishly rejected the gift of eternal life … but also for the pain of all those mothers and fathers who have seen their children chose not the narrow path that leads to life, but the broad one that leads to perdition. For all parents want what is best for their children; this includes, of course, the good things of this life; but far more important are those that lead to eternal life. For no life is a success if it does not end in heaven.

This is why parents, in the Christian tradition, are the primary educators of their children. It is so that they can bring them up in a godly fashion – so they can do for them as Christ commanded his disciples and be his witnesses to them. If all parents took that duty seriously so many of the evils in the world would be eliminated. Parents would go to their graves proud of their children, not because they had a good job or a fancy car, but because they were faithful disciples of Christ. And those same children, when they were old and grey themselves, would weep tears of joy that they had had such parents … parents who loved them enough to give them to gift of faith in Christ … the faith that would bring them one day to the place where they would be with God: Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed – Alleluia!

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