Fr. Bill Carroll – The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day, March 31, 2024

The same stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  This is the Lord‘s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“Love itself is a form of knowledge.”  These are words from St. Gregory the Great.  Gregory was a Benedictine monk who became pope from 590 to 604.  Once, I served in a town with a university and a monastery named for him.  Gregory is speaking about a kind of knowledge that we often undervalue today.  For him, knowledge comes not just by command and control or by careful investigation–but also by love.

Of course, sometimes we do come to know things through hard work in the library, in the field, or in the lab.  And I’d be the last to deny the importance of this kind of knowledge.  The past five years (to say nothing of the many centuries before) have confirmed the importance of history and science and other forms of disciplined inquiry for human well-being.

But, in the end,  it is another kind of knowledge that makes life worth living.  It is another kind of knowledge that we stake our lives on.  It comes only through our relationships–through community, through standing in a tradition.  It comes by sharing our lives with others.  In the end, it comes only by love.  

Faith is the trust that develops when we find genuine love from another.  It is also the conviction that grows from this type of intimate relationship.  In the Bible, we learn about God’s boundless love for all people, especially “the least of these.” Above all, in these last days, we learn about God through “Jesus, the Word-made-flesh.”  By all that he says, all that he suffers, and all that he does, Jesus shows us what God is like.  By his great love for us all, Jesus shows us who God is.

“Love itself is a form of knowledge.”  Mary Magdalene knows Jesus this way.  She knows him heart-to-heart and face-to-face.  And so, we can forgive her for failing to recognize him, when she meets him in the garden tomb, early Easter morning  

Most of the first stories of Easter are like this.  After Jesus is crucified, his friends meet him, alive.  But, at first, they don’t know that it’s him.  Then “their eyes are opened, and they recognize him.”  Most often, Jesus appears as a stranger. He has to take the initiative and show himself to us, alive.

On the road to Emmaus, for example, it’s only when Jesus opens the Scriptures and breaks bread with us, that we know who he is.  Jesus is restoring the fellowship that we have broken by our violence and sin. When he comes to Thomas (a week late), he overcomes our doubts and fears.  He invites us to touch his wounds and see for ourselves.  Out of love, Jesus appears to his chosen witnesses–alive.  He has appeared to many of us in this room.

He shows himself to Mary Magdalene on that first Easter morning.  She arrives in the darkness, carrying the spices she needs to prepare his body for burial.  As far as she’s concerned, it’s all over.  She has seen Jesus beaten, mocked, and murdered.  And she wants to do what she can to restore dignity to his tortured and desecrated body. 

 She feels the ache of love in her bones.  Someone she loves has been killed before her very eyes.  And, when she gets to the Tomb, his body is gone.  She thinks it’s been stolen.  Even the comfort of caring for his body has been taken from her.  No wonder she starts to weep.

When Jesus gets there, she thinks he’s the gardener.  “Sir (she says, still weeping), if you have carried him away, tell me where you put him, and I will take him away.”  But then, Jesus calls her by name.  “Mary,” he says, and she turns to him.  

Mary turns her body around.  She turns her whole life around.  She starts to face in a different direction.  This is a sign of her conversion.  She turns to Jesus, and her heart starts to burn within her.  “My teacher,” she exclaims.  Because deep in her body (with the knowledge born of love), she knows that it is him  And so, she runs off (heart pounding) to tell the others—that Jesus is alive.

In Jesus, we meet the love that conquers death.  He is the Living One, the chief cornerstone, the beginning of God’s new world.  The world can’t be the same because of what he suffered and because of his triumph over the grave.  He is the one who takes on our sin, our suffering, and our shame.  On the Cross, he shatters their power over us forever.  And so, no matter who we are, no matter what we have suffered or done, he restores us to God’s loving embrace. 

Today, we baptize Breeden Elizabeth McLellan.  Yesterday, she turned two years old.  But, in a real sense, today is her birthday. Every baptism shows us the life-changing power of God.  Today, we get to witness Bree’s baptism.  And we rejoice that Jesus has made her his own.  Jesus has given her a gift and a calling that nothing can ever take away.  He has also given each and every one of us a gift and a calling that nothing—and no one—can take away.  Today, we renew our renunciation of evil—and we recommit ourselves to Jesus Christ.

We celebrate God’s amazing love for all people, everywhere–and today, especially for Bree.  For Jesus loves every last human being–before we can do anything to earn or deserve it.  And there is nothing (nothing) that we could do to ever make him stop  loving us.

For Jesus does not love the way the world loves.  He does not give in order to get something. Nor does he love us in order to impose control.  He pours out his life for all of us.

He loves us to set us free.  The story of his resurrection is always told against the backdrop of the Jewish Passover.  He is the liberator God who brings his People into freedom. This is the faith in which we stand.  This is the faith by which we are being saved.  

In the words of the ancient liturgy:  “How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your mercy and loving-kindness to us, that to redeem a slave, you gave a Son.”

“Jesus Christ is risen today.”  That’s Good News.  It’s the very best news there is.  Jesus Christ is risen today.  Alleluia!