The Empty Tomb

The Resurrection of Our Lord

Easter Sunday, 2016

Acts 10:34,37-43; Ps 118; Col. 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9

(New)Folsom Prison; Deacon Jim McFadden


I would like to begin the homily with a prayer: Lord and brother Jesus, we gather together to speak of you because you are Risen. We know and love you because through your Incarnation and Resurrection you have made that love and knowledge possible. So, Lord, we glory to speak of you. We praise and bless you, Jesus because you are Risen—you are ALIVE! Amen, Alleluia.

Today we are celebrating the apex of the liturgical calendar: The Resurrection of the Lord. We’re celebrating the resurrected Jesus who is forever for us. Our Faith comes down to this: if He’s risen, we have the promise of eternal life; if he isn’t, then, as St. Paul reminds us, we are the most foolish and pitiable of human beings. On Good Friday we kissed the Cross that God had assigned to himself so that we may embrace it as well. So, whenever we look at the crucified Christ, we see our fate, we see ourselves.   Yet, we know that in the life of the historical Jesus that this act of dying is either the end or the beginning. Either the leap of Faith that he took worked or it did not.   If the Cross is a period, if it is the end point, then it is the final act of man’s despair.   But, as we assemble here in this liturgy here at C (or A) Facility, we are proclaiming by our witness that the Cross is not the end, but a beginning: we are able to see in the final act of Jesus’ earthly existence a positive sign of hope. Why?   Because now we can draw the Crucifixion into the Resurrection.   Jesus’ final journey into death either tells mankind that love is victorious and the risk of living a life of love is worth taking or He has taken a sad and meaningless walk into despair and death that is not worth it.

What do we have to justify this hope? The Empty Tomb. Let’s look at the Gospel account. Peter and John come running up to the tomb after hearing that perhaps Jesus has risen. John, the Beloved Disciple, the human symbol of love, arrived their first.   Through the eyes of love, he is able to come to the awareness of the Resurrection earlier. Peter, the leader of the community and our first pope, who is perhaps older than John, gets their later. John waits, and out of deference to the rock of the Church, allows the latter to enter the tomb first. At first, all they are aware of is the presence of the empty tomb. That in itself is not proof of Resurrection.   The proof for them, as it will be for us, becomes the experience of the of the Risen Christ–the Jesus who lives.

That’s the only way we can know that Jesus is Risen, that He is Lord. We cannot physically see the Risen Christ. We can’t prove his Resurrection through cognitive, abstract reasoning. We can see the Risen Christ, however, through the eyes of Faith, which St. Bonaventure would call the Eye of the Soul. We can experience the Risen Christ sacramentally, especially through the Eucharist in which Jesus is Really Present. We can experience Him ecclessially—through the People of God, which is the Body of Christ. Since we are made in the image of God, we have the capability to turn towards God and to contemplate the deeper truths of the mystery of existence.

Brothers, when we “move, live, and have our being” in the Risen Christ, we begin to see reality as God sees it. When we open the Eye of the Soul, we can see things from the divine point of view because at the deepest level of our being we are in touch with this power–this world of Spirit that sustains everything in existence. From this vantage point, we can know that the most pivotal event in Salvation History–the Resurrection of Jesus–is true because we experience him indwelling within us and transforming other people around us.

The first step of the life of a Christian is to go within and unite with the Divine.   We leave the world where we are comfortable and in control and begin the slow arduous struggle of surrendering to God. When we begin to let go and begin to see reality from the perspective of the Risen Christ, our desires slowly begin to change. Let me ask you: what is it that you desire at a very deep level of soul? That’s a good question because what we desire will determine what we see.

If all we see is the accumulation of stuff, yard ‘cred.’ , and domination, then that’s what we’ll desire–we’ll compete for those God-substitutes that are scarce and exclusive. But, what would happen if we became people who saw reality through the experience of the Resurrection? We would start desiring that which is completely abundant; something everybody could have: Resurrected Life! What would happen to us if we desired something that was already there–that we didn’t have to wrestle it from someone else? As the Eye of the Soul begins to slowly open through prayer, meditation of Scripture, enthusiastic participation in the sacraments, and service to our neighbor, then we slowly become transformed. We begin to see what is truly Real and our desires begin to slowly change. Rather than try to save our lives, we strive to give ourselves away.   We’ll also begin to feel differently. As we abide in the Risen Jesus, we will experience “a joy that will never pass away”–you can’t say that about anything else.

So, as the People of God at Folsom Prison, we collectively strive to live like Jesus—we are a visible sign to the world that Christ has risen. As James reminds us in his Epistle, we must be more than hearers of the Good News of the Resurrection, but we must be doers. We are brothers and sisters of the Risen Christ, who is drawing all of humanity, all of Creation unto Himself. Let us act in every aspect of our lives that we know that Jesus Christ is Risen today!








One Who Doesn’t Serve Doesn’t Live

Good Friday; March 25, 2016

Deacon Jim McFadden; St. John the Baptist C.C.


         St. Ireneaus, one of the early Fathers of the Church said that “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Well, was does it mean to be “fully alive”? What does it mean to be a human being in the total sense of the expression?

Ritually, we performed that truth last night in the Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday. Imitating our Lord Jesus, we renewed our decision to serve the Church, which is the Body of Christ, by washing each other’s feet. The Lord, who is God in the Flesh, who is Immanuel—God among us—washed the feet of his closest disciples. And, since he is the teacher and we are his students, he asked that we, too should do the same towards one another.

Let’s be very clear: God served us first! And, since we are made in the image of God who is self-giving love, we are most human when we serve: when we pour ourselves out into the lives others, especially the poor, through service. Brothers and sisters, God, who is complete, perfect, and simply a Necessary Being, needs absolutely nothing from us. He lacks nothing. Yet, he condescended to become one of us, to unite his divinity with our humanity. And, being fully human, what does he do? He serves. GOD SERVES US.

The lesson is clear: if we want to be fully alive, we have to embrace a life that does not cling, that does not seek happiness through acquiring the goods of the world. Instead, we do what Jesus does: we lose ourselves in love. We emulate Jesus, who conquers sin and death, and who gives life the world.

As Pope Francis remind us , one who serves others, saves. Come again, Holy Father?  Isn’t Jesus the Savior of the world? Of course, he is. While there is only one Savior, he gives us his very Mission to bring his salvation to the world. And, we do that by serving others in love. We do so because it is the Father’s will and we do so in the loving manner that God wants.

On the other hand, if we choose to live in our safe, comfortable, religious cocoon, where we go about the fussy business of trying to save our souls without regard for the well being of those on the margins, then we’re living a fraudulent life: one who does not serve does not live.

            John’s famous gospel passage reminds us of this. “God so loved the world (Jn 3:16). God’s love is concrete, tangible, in your face. If you want to know just how much God loves you, look at the crucified Christ. You don’t need theology degrees to understand that visceral truth. Just look at Jesus on the Cross: God so loves you that he took our sin upon us, which killed him. Why did he do that? TO SAVE US! That’s why he willingly went to Calvary. He ended up on the Cross, he experienced that unfathomable separation from God the giver of life. It’s incredible enough that God would condescend to become a human being. But, to be subject to death, to experience that kind of debasement for our sake is beyond comprehension. You can’t make up a God so beautifully revealed to us by Jesus, God incarnate. God bends down to where we are, he serves us unconditionally in order to take upon himself all that is ours—sin, death, and the power of Satan—until he opens the doors of eternal life through his Resurrection.

People of God, Good Friday has so much to teach us. If Hollywood would be orchestrating it, we would conventionally expect salvation would be realized through some kind of triumphant divine victory: like world conquest or winning the Super Bowl fifty times in a row. But, no: Jesus does it through a most humble victory. Lifted up on the Cross, he allows evil, the seduction of Satan, and death to rage against him, while he continues to love. Can you believe that? Our sin is killing him and, yet, he is loving us to the very end! I’ve got to be honest: it is really difficult to accept this reality. It’s really a mystery that we don’t understand God very well. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, “Our thoughts on not God’s thoughts; his ways are not ours.” But, what lies at the base of this extraordinary humility, is the power of love. In the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, we see death crushing him. At the same time, we see the cure for death. And, it is possible that through the great love that God has for each one of us, through humble love in which we get down on our knees to serve others, we will know in our gut what it means to be human.

So, Jesus takes the absolutely worse thing that could ever happen—our sins killed the Son of God—and he transforms that into Good. Brothers and sisters, Jesus did not change things with words, but with actions. He didn’t go through the motions of religious observance, but he freely threw himself into our human condition and radically transformed it through the power of his Resurrection. In so doing, he made the Cross, a terrifying instrument of torture and death into a bridge to life. But, here’s the key: if we are going to participate in his divine life, to be transformed by it, we, too must willingly choose humble love, which means victorious eternal life. It is self-giving service, it is love that neither puts down, bullies, shouts nor coercively imposes itself, but happens through patience as we allow God to work in and through us.

So, People of God: do we want to be fully human? If so, we will embrace the Great Commandment. We will not concern ourselves what we don’t have here on earth, which can never address the yearnings of the human heart. Instead, we will keep our focus on the treasure that comes from above, that Pearl of Great Price. We won’t focus on what can serve our egoic needs, but with what truly serves. That’s the Paschal Mystery of the Lord which is sufficient for us to be fully human. Jesus IS THE ONE! It is through him that there is life, there is salvation, there is resurrection and joy. May that be enough for us.

Then we will look upon the crucified Christ and resolve to be servants according to this Sacred Heart. We won’t be functionaries who go about checking off a religious list of do’s and don’ts. We won’t do service to assuage or guilt or to do it to get to heaven. But, as beloved children of God we will give our life to the world. Just as Jesus did. Amen.