Below is the homily by Reverend Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago for the Catholic Chicago Men’s Conference on April 7, 2018 – “Living Emmaus in Everyday Life”.
CMCS –Saturday Octave of Easter
Last Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This year it happened to be April Fools’ Day. All week the church the world over has been reflecting on the meaning of that event that is the very crux of the faith of Christians. For, if Jesus has not been raised, then as St. Paul chides us, we remain dead in our sins and are to be laughed at by the world.
The recent movie “Risen” -2016, is a sober portrayal of what resurrection means. Starring the actor, Joseph Fiennes, the film is an epic biblical story of the Resurrection of Jesus as told through the eyes of a non-believer, Clavius, a prestigious Roman military tribune.
The figure of Jesus is shown intermittently throughout the film. And on that fateful day, Clavius is the tribune who ordered a soldier to plunge a spear into Jesus’ heart to make sure He was dead. So, Clavius knew for certain that Jesus died on the cross.
But, it didn’t end there. Clavius is tasked with solving the mystery of what really happened to Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew crucified under edict of the governor Pontius Pilate. Pilate, vexed by the persistence of the temple priests regarding the rumor that Jesus would rise from the dead, orders Clavius to make sure that does not happen.
After the discovery that the tomb is empty, Clavius traverses everywhere to disprove the rumors of a risen messiah and prevent a Jewish uprising in Jerusalem. He tries to track down Jesus’ followers, he examines the broken seals on the huge stone that covered Jesus’ tomb. He digs up other crucified men thrown in the city’s garbage dump outside the city walls. Meanwhile, Pilate has taken obsessive interest in solving the mystery and demands periodic updates on the investigation. “Tribune, the governor Pilate summons you” is repeated frequently throughout the film.
Well-acted, the plot ends dramatically with Clavius bursting in a door located in a poor section of the city only to find a group of men clutching together around a table and there, to Clavius’ absolute horror, sitting in the midst of the men is Jesus, very much alive – the same Jesus he ordered to have a spear plunged in his heart while he hung on the cross to make sure he was dead.
With pleasant looks on their faces the group looks like it just celebrated a holiday meal. Jesus invites Clavius to join them. The look on Clavius’ face is striking– he could not refute the evidence of what he was seeing…. his eyes filling up with tears. The movie now a DVD is worth your seeing.
Clavius discovered the truth of the risen Jesus and he decides to join the disciples thus going awol from the Roman military.
We too can rediscover the risen Jesus:
There is no event in history that has turned the pages of history and affected the masses like the life, death, execution and resurrection of Jesus Christ whom we know as the Son of God. Since then, many human beings, believers and unbelievers alike have had to come to grips with a decision about Jesus Christ. No other historical figure has stared us in the face so intently like Jesus of Nazareth.
Our faith in the resurrection is a fragile thing. The world around us may think us April fools for believing it. We may have more questions than answers when contemplating it this week immediately following the events in Jerusalem the last week. If all this was merely fake news there is no way this religion could have lasted over two-thousand years. It would have crumbled -gone by the by a long time ago. The Christian story has been given the stamp of approval by God Himself. That seal is the death and resurrection of Jesus to save us from our sins.
What delights us as a codicil to the story is that the apostles and others close to them went out into the whole world and proclaimed the Good News to everyone they encountered. And that is why we with our wonderment have come here to dine with Jesus today with the food of his Sacrament.
Notice that I said that everyone, believer and unbeliever alike, has to come to grips with a decision about Jesus Christ. We too search for the risen Jesus. There are others out there that do the same.
But, there are also many out there, even baptized people we know and befriend, even love who admire Jesus Christ as a decent man who lived back then and somehow ran afoul of the authorities and was given a death sentence. And, interestingly, his wisdom has endured through the ages. But, these same people, who claim to be good people, who we know and love will not hand their lives over to Him. People tend to think of Jesus as a figure of the past instead of as a power in the present. For many, Jesus is a vague reference mentioned in the religion classes of their childhood. But their lives show little trace that that makes any difference.
Truth be told, however, Jesus doesn’t want our admiration of him. He wants our discipleship. There’s a difference. Simply, admiring Jesus Christ will not get you saved. Being a disciple of Jesus demands a conscientious, calculated, intentional and determined commitment made to Him and his counsel.
Society is becoming more and more indifferent to religion and religious faith. Religion and religious faith is not welcomed in the market place, the work place, the politics, the financial pursuits and day-to-day lives of citizens.
What about yourselves? What battery does your life run on and that of your family? Which ideology or philosophy of life supplies you with meaning to life, drives your vision and the dreams of your family – that of the world or the timeless wisdom and values preached by Jesus Christ and our Christian traditions?
If any of this has meaning for you, I bid you be the leader of your family. Be a pastor of your family and make sure your spouse and children reach heaven someday insofar as it lies within your power to do so.
Choose something by way of resolution from a morning like this to indicate to yourself and others that you are an intentional disciple of Jesus Christ:
If you are a single man, make sure the scriptures are picked up and read each day. Say your prayers each day. Be in Church on Sunday. Search the moral and spiritual traditions of our Catholic faith as a compass for your life. Steer clear of the contaminants that eat our society alive in the name of ambition and avarice for money and the things money can buy. Avoid the sexual images that are constantly thrown at us through the media, the internet and the chatter of others, the mistakes of others.
If you are a family man, make sure you are getting on your knees with your wife and addressing God together. Worship at Mass each Sunday together, lead prayer before meals with your children and grandchildren together, read solid Catholic literature for proper nourishment so that you can have something solid to recommend and advise your children and grandchildren. Give something back to God from your treasure. Voluntarily extend yourself to others through your parish or other charitable ventures.
Recapture that initial religious fervor of your youth if it has gone stale and unused.