Jesus Bursts Into Our Soul

Divine Mercy Sunday (A); April 23, 2017

Acts 2:42-47 Ps 118 1 Pt 1:3-9 Jn 20:19-31

Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison

 

                        Today’s gospel begins “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked…” (Jn 20:1).   Why were they locked? The disciples were afraid. They were trying to protect themselves from what threatened their safety and security. They were clinging to the old ways of thinking and living that bolstered their fragile existence.

In Folsom Prison what would this Old Consciousness look like? One sees it on the yard everyday: men living out the same drama behind bars that got them into prison in the first place. It’s disguising their brokenness and vulnerability with a machismo that strives to project a strong, get-out-of-my-face bravado. It’s being haunted by past failures, bad decisions, uncertainties, and loss of freedom by drowning this pain with drugs, alcohol, pornography, and violence.

Right in the middle of that dysfunction Jesus appears. When does the Resurrected Christ appear to the fearful disciples? “On the evening of the first day of the week.” He appears in the midst of their darkness, when things seem so hopeless. And, he does so on the “first day of the week.” Brothers, the Risen Christ is bringing us a new creation. In Genesis on the first day of the week, God began to create heaven and earth. As Jesus is risen from the dead, there is a new creating, a new beginning. You are meant to be a new creation; you are meant to be reborn in the Resurrected Christ. There is no external obstacle that stands between you and Jesus’ invitation to the fullness of life. The only obstacle is internal. So, say “yes” to this opportunity, brothers, because there’s so much at stake: your very well being, your joy, your salvation.

But, why should we say “yes”? In John’s first letter, it is revealed that “God is love.” And, Jesus, the Word made Flesh, is the perfect incarnation of God’s love. The final act of Jesus’ earthly existence was to die to sin—our sins killed Jesus! But, that awful event is also a sign of hope because His Resurrection reveals to us that love is victorious and the risk of living a life of love is worth it. People of God at Folsom Prison know that Love is triumphant; that mercy of God is always victorious.    Gratefully receive his mercy; don’t turn Jesus, Love incarnate, (New) away.

Just as the Risen Jesus did in the Gospel reading, He can burst into the confines of our isolated, sinful, and fearful soul. Jesus wants to burst into your heart and soul because He loves you. He gave His life for you so that you may life NOW and FOREVER! As St. Augustine reminds us, if you are the only person on this earth, Jesus would have suffered and died for your salvation. Look at the crucified Christ: that’s how much God loves you. That’s our starting point. Open your heart to Jesus; let His Good News transform your mind and heart. What is this Good News? Jesus is Risen!—He has overcome sin and death. If God can wrest such ultimate triumph from the jaws of such apparent defeat on Good Friday, what might He do with your past bad decisions, current obsessions, and losses of your own life? Brothers, if God can overcome sin and death, can’t He transform our brokenness?

The answer is a resounding “YES!” because Jesus is risen. Do you get the implication of that fact? There is hope for you because you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil! You can live new Life right here and now in Folsom Prison because Jesus is Risen and He dwells within and among us. We don’t have to wait to participate in His Resurrected life because it is abundantly available to us right here and now. We simply have to gratefully surrender to our Risen Lord and receive His Resurrected life.

What will it mean when we surrender to our Lord, Who is the Resurrection?   It means that the love of God will dwell within you and among your brothers and sisters, which is the Church. It means that his love is stronger than any evil and death that lurks within these prison walls. It means that the love of God can transform your lives and let those lonely desert places in your hearts blossom with joy and enthusiasm for the God who is present.

So, this is the invitation which has been extended to us by Jesus. Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection. Let us be renewed by divine mercy. Let us allow Jesus to love us, to enable the power of his love to transform our mind and heart. And, let us share with others what we have received in abundance. (Let us imitate the special call that Sr. Maria Faustina received when Jesus said to this simple, uneducated, young Polish nun: “I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my My merciful Heart.” Let us become agents of this mercy; let us be channels which God can water the dry, cracked earth of Folsom Prison. Let us make justice and peace flourish. Let us proclaim and live that HE IS RISEN!

 

        

 

 

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The Empty Tomb

The Resurrection of Our Lord

Easter Sunday, 2017

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

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

 

Today we are celebrating The Resurrection of the Lord, which is the be-all and end-all of our Christian faith. It really comes down to this: if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then Christianity is a fraud and a joke; if so, we should just get up and leave and priests and consecrated religious should immediately look for honest work. But, if he did rise from death, then Christianity is the fullness of God’s revelation, and that Jesus should be the absolute center of our lives. There is no third option.

Moreover, we are not just remembering the historical event, but we are celebrating that the resurrected Jesus is forever with us. Jesus was not one and done in dying to redeem us, but desires to be an active part of our lives.

As we assemble here in this Easter liturgy, we are also proclaiming by our witness that the Cross was 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; we can connect the two events. Jesus’ final journey into death tells us that love is victorious and that the risk of living a life of love is worth taking.

What do we have to justify this hope? The Empty Tomb. Let’s look at the Gospel account. Peter and John come running to the tomb after hearing that perhaps Jesus has risen. John, the Beloved Disciple, the human symbol of love, arrived there first. Peter, the leader of the community and our first pope, who is perhaps older than John, gets there later. John waits out of deference to Peter, the rock of the Church, and allows him to enter the tomb first. At first, they are only aware of is the empty tomb. That in itself is not proof of Resurrection.   The proof for them, as it will be for us, is their experience 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 irrefutably through abstract reasoning, but we can see the Risen Christ through the eyes of our faith. We can experience the Risen Christ sacramentally, especially through the Eucharist in which Jesus is truly present. We can experience Him ecclesially—through the People of God. That’s what I think Jesus meant when he reassured us that when two or more people gather in my name, I am there with them.

Brothers and sisters, when we “move, live, and have our being” in the Risen Christ, we begin to see reality as God sees it. 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 dwelling within us and transforming other people around us.   That’s why saintly people are so magnetically attractive: they radiate the Lord Jesus.

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.

Through prayer, meditation of Scripture, enthusiastic participation in the sacraments, and service to others, we begin to see what is truly Real. We begin to see reality from the perspective of the Risen Christ.

Let me ask you: what is it that you desire at the deepest level of your heart and soul? That’s a good question because what we desire will determine what we see.

If all we see is the accumulation of the goods of the world—wealth, prestige, power, and pleasure—then we’ll aggressively 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? Rather than try to save our lives, we would strive to give ourselves away. We will begin to see what is truly Real, and our desires would slowly change. We will 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, can you?

So, as the People of God, we collectively strive to live like Jesus—we are a visible sign to the world that Christ is 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 and is with us forever. Amen.