And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow…. Gospel according to St. Matthew 28:1-10
The Magi who came seeking the Messiah were overjoyed at seeing the star of Jesus, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The Women who came to the tomb seeking Jesus the crucified were not expecting an angel with the appearance of lightning. After seeing the angel of the Lord, the women went away from the empty tomb fearful yet overjoyed. But then Jesus greeted them as they ran. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage like the Magi did. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of humility, surrender and love. Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.”
Here I was in Fallujah, Iraq on Christmas night 2004, I was exhausted, beat up and depleted. I had celebrated about 19 Masses in three days. It was rainy and cold with broken glass all around me. A 19 year old Marine on lookout was unable to receive communion and asked for me to bring Jesus to him. I almost said no, but here I was. He was fearful yet overjoyed at seeing me with the Eucharist. We didn’t know that the battle was over. My homily was the same for every Mass and Communion service. “If this is not the best Christmas ever, then something is wrong.” The Marine looked at me from the mud, death and broken glass as if I was crazy. Even though I truly believed that every day living and believing in Jesus makes it the best ever, my hope was frail and despair was building. My joy was on life-support.
This young Marine reverently opened his grimy hands to receive the Body of Christ. I thought of Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in the crèche and on the cross. As I began to sing O Holy Night, which is really an Easter hymn of resurrection, the Marine sang louder and louder in an operatic voice. Could the whole world hear this Marine? With our eyes closed, tears streamed down my face and soul. I was no longer afraid. When I opened my eyes and saw the Marine radiant with face awash in tears, he gave me a smile and simply said, “Yep, Padre, this is truly the best Christmas ever!” We had approached Jesus, embraced his feet, and did him homage. We offered him gifts of innocents lost, broken minds, and love. Jesus simply said, “Do not be afraid! Tell my brothers and sisters the Good News! You will see me in the Eucharist!” And now today is the day that springs from the best Christmas ever. It must truly be the best Easter Ever…
Some people are still trapped in the rubble of life and some, like you, with the help of God, are raised from the rubble and rebuilt with strength, courage and patient hope. We have the choice, will we step out of the tomb new and renewed, resurrected in our lives, or will we be tempted to return to the tomb with our same old perspective, and, like shackles, take them again into our life’s experience?
This is the atmosphere of the tomb, but Jesus wants to instead, open the way of life, the way of joy and the way to lasting peace. The light has conquered darkness; hosanna to God in the highest! ( Check out the short video clip which will inspire)
I pray for each and everyone of us that we might be filled up, filled up with the joy of salvation, filled up with the joy of justice, filled up with the joy of the Sunday experience so that our lives speak something, so that our lives mean something, so that our lives have a purpose, so that our lives have an impact. Jesus is the light that comes into our world, his words echo through the Gospels, may we remain young as they also echo in our lives fully alive with strength, courage, wonder, awe and hope, as Good News.