A Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter
A while back, while driving down I-27, I passed a billboard that said, “Church Should be Fun!” I thought to myself, “Really?” I weighed the notion, then shook my head. “What garbage!”
Don’t get me wrong. I think church youth groups should be fun and pitching in at parish festival should be fun. But the worship of God is far too serious of a matter to be labeled fun.
What got me thinking about that billboard’s message was the verse in today’s first reading where St. Peter describes Christians as “witnesses.” Did you know that, in Greek, the word, witness, is the same word as martyr?
Church should be fun?
Not if you witness what I witness as a priest.
Nor if you witness what a young man named Francisco Cantu witnessed as a guard for the US Border Patrol.
Let me tell you about this guy.
Francisco grew up in Arizona. His grandfather was an immigrant from Mexico. After graduating from college, Francisco became a border guard. Why did he do this? Because he wanted to witness, first hand, the experience of the border.
While in college, Francisco majored in political science. He attended classes about the border. He read books about the border. And he was young and idealistic. He spoke Spanish, felt at home in both cultures and felt he had something to offer. There was a problem on the border and he wanted to be part of the solution.
So, he worked for the Immigration Service for four years and wrote a book about it: When the Line Becomes a River. It’s an insightful and well-written book. But its focus isn’t governmental policy, its focus is people. The subject of the book isn’t immigration, it’s closer to what you and I call salvation because its central message is this: You can’t witness suffering without being transformed by it.
You can’t witness deep suffering without that suffering changing you in a profound way.
Now, let’s circle back to that billboard on I-27: “Church should be fun!”
Friends, as Catholics, we come to church for just one reason, one very serious reason: to be thrust into the passion of Christ.
- Christ, whose tears flow down the face of your little girl at bedtime…and whose blood flows down the neck of young man shot on the street;
- Christ, whose mouth you feed with a spoon each time you visit your father at the nursing home and whose hunger rumbles in your own stomach on the days that you fast out of love for Him;
- Christ, whose eyes, like those of the indigent woman on a street corner, search for a place to call home in your heart and in your life.
We come to church to enter into the saving passion of Christ in whom we live and move and have our being. This is the reason a crucifix hangs in every Catholic church: You cannot witness suffering without being transformed by it.
This is my Body. This is my Blood.
“Touch the scars in my hands,” says the Lord. “Probe the wound in my side. And never again be the same.”