This week, the Southern Nebraska Register presents excerpts from Bishop Conley’s Easter Sunday homily at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ:
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Christ is Risen; Christ has truly Risen, alleluia, alleluia!
It is with Easter joy in my heart this morning, that I welcome you to the Cathedral of the Risen Christ. Christ has truly risen as he promised, and we celebrate that joy together this morning—celebrating with one another the greatest gift and grace of our Christian faith.
I had the privilege of hearing many confessions this past week. Holy week is a time of tremendous grace and conversion. It was a particular joy to welcome back to the sacraments those who have been away for whatever reason. We are overjoyed that you each one of you is with us.
Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead for each one of us! Christ offers each one of us the hope and promise of eternal life; he offers us joy, peace, and purpose of life. I pray that you will continue to worship with us, and that you will experience Jesus Christ in a way that brings true and lasting joy.
Pope Benedict XVI says that “Easter is concerned with something unimaginable.” In the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter proclaims the unimaginable: he says that a man, Jesus of Nazareth, came into the world, he went about doing good and healing the sick, because God was with him. That Jesus was put to death and three days later he was raised from the dead. That he walked and talked with his friends; that he and ate and drank with his disciples, after he had been dead and returned to life. And, that this man, Jesus Christ, will forgive our sins.
Pope Benedict is right. The Easter story is unimaginable. Rational people might have trouble believing in what St. Peter proclaims. Science tells us that life does not end and then begin again. Our experience tells us the same. Easter makes a claim that seems impossible to accept: Christ died, Christ rose again, and Christ’s Resurrection gives us new life.
St. Peter says that prophets bear witness to Jesus. He means that the prophets of Israel foretold all that would happen in the life of Jesus.
The apostles and disciples of Jesus knew what the prophets wrote. In fact, as faithful Jewish men and women, they would have heard the prophecies of the Messiah all their lives. And the apostles and disciples had believed that the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament were realized in the Incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth.
The apostles knew that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. But when he was resurrected, it was still unimaginable to them. The Gospel of John tells us that Mary Magdalene went to Christ’s tomb and found the stone rolled away. She couldn’t imagine that Christ had risen from the dead; she thought his body had been stolen.
Mary Magdalene immediately ran to the apostles and told them that Christ’s body was gone. Simon Peter and John ran to the tomb. They did not understand that Christ was risen from the dead. It was unimaginable to them. John tells us today; “they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”
In fact, they did not understand it until they actually saw Jesus. He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, and then to his disciples and apostles. Until they saw it, they could not believe it. And then, as witnesses, they told the whole world that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Dear brothers and sisters, this morning, the Church makes claims that are unimaginable! We proclaim that Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man. We proclaim that he lived, died, and then that he rose again. And we proclaim that his resurrection is more than a historical fact: we proclaim that the resurrection of Jesus Christ can transform our lives and unite us forever with God.
We can understand why the apostles may not have understood or imagined this. And we can understand why they had to see for themselves. The claim of the Resurrection challenges each one of us.
In the first century, St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote that, “Christianity is not the work of persuasion, but of real power.”
The power of the Resurrection is not only the power of a historical fact. The power of the Resurrection is a power that is alive today. And the Lord invites each one of us to see and experience the power of his Resurrection.
Today, dear brothers and sisters, we can believe in the Resurrection of Jesus because we can see its real and true power.
This Easter, God invites us to see the power of the Resurrection. As Pope Benedict XVI said, “the Risen One does not show himself in a great public spectacle before the Masses.”
Instead, the power of the Resurrection is seen in the ordinary lives of believers.
We can see the power of the Resurrection in the lives of ordinary believers, transformed in holiness, who have hope, and joy, and real authentic love in their lives, through Jesus Christ.
We can see the power of the Resurrection in the life of the Church, in those who have been healed through Christ, in those who have experienced the power of God’s mercy. We can see the power of the Resurrection in the lives of saints: 2,000 years of disciples who discovered the meaning and purpose of their lives in the power of Jesus Christ.
We can see the power of the Resurrection in those who have given their very lives for Jesus Christ, particular those who have laid down their lives for Christ in the Christian genocide that is currently taking place in the middle east.
We can see the power of the Resurrection in the beauty of the Church’s sacraments: in the transformation that comes through the sacrament of penance and the Holy Eucharist.
We can see the power of the Resurrection in the truth of the Gospel, and in the beauty and truth of the Church’s teachings.
Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord invites all of us on this Easter Sunday to see the power of the Resurrection by following Jesus Christ more openly and more intentionally, by living as Christ calls us to live, and by experiencing the meaning and power of Christ’s life, death, and Resurrection.
The Gospel is more than a conclusion, or a proposal, or a historical fact. The Gospel is a living fact—a living person—Jesus of Nazareth. Christ invites us to new life in Him—to know our deepest purpose and meaning through his resurrection.
Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is Risen, as he has promised. We have heard that he is risen—may we, each one of us, see and experience the power of his Resurrection!