April 21, 2019 – Year C
Readings: Acts 10:34A, 37-43 / Ps 118 / 1 Cor 5:6B-8 / Jn 20:1-9
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
In 2011 I was blessed to be able to go to Europe on a trip with my family. As part of that trip, we got to spend a few days in Paris and visit the Cathedral of Our Lady, Notre Dame de Paris. Earlier this week when I got the message from my wife that Notre Dame was on fire, I thought, “What?” I pulled open a news app and I saw the images of this wonderful eight-hundred-year old cathedral in flames. I just couldn’t believe it. Then as I watched the video of the spire collapsing and falling through the roof, my heart just ached that this beautiful memorial to the glory of God was gone.
The next morning, when I started seeing the first images after the fire had been extinguished and people could get in, I started experiencing a feeling of hope. I saw that glorious image of the cross intact and undamaged, still standing behind the altar with the beams of light coming in and illuminating it. Then, I started hearing that the French president was committed to rebuilding it, and that people were pledging millions of dollars for the rebuilding effort.
But then, a few days later, I started seeing other posts on social media. They all had a similar theme, questioning why so much money should be spent rebuilding a building, and shouldn’t we be spending that on the poor? Or why should we be trying to reconstruct this building? What do we need it for? We should be reconstructing the rainforest or reconstructing the coral reefs that have been so decimated in my lifetime.
As I considered that, I thought, yes, they have a point. We should be taking care of the poor. We should be working to protect and rebuild God’s creation. But taking care of the poor and rebuilding a cathedral are not mutually exclusive. It occurs to me that this is a symptom of something I’ve been noticing more and more. I call it a binary mindset, that things are either black or white.
Too often we spend too much time trying to put people in categories: either conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, black or white, Wahoo or Hokie. These classifications in and of themselves are not bad; they have their uses. But too often, once we classify someone according to these groups, we stop thinking and we say, “I know how that person is.” That person becomes good or bad depending on where I put myself. That’s not acceptable, because these issues are more complex than that.
There is another classification that I hear people using to identify others, but this is a little bit different. These two categories are: saint or sinner. The error we make when doing this categorization is that we draw the boundary blocks in the wrong place. Too often when we do this, we ignore the number one characteristic of a sinner. Do you know what that is? Breathing.
Brothers and sisters, if you’re breathing, you’re a sinner. Sinner is the label Pope Francis puts on himself most often. The late great Pope Saint John Paul II, when he was with us, went to confession every day. Too often, we tend to think, “Oh I’m okay, but they’re a sinner,” when, brothers and sisters, we’re all in the same boat together.
But that shouldn’t depress you. That is the beauty of Easter, of the Resurrection that we are celebrating today. No matter what you have done, the cross paid for it all. When Jesus allowed Himself to be sacrificed on the cross, that paid for every sin committed to that point and throughout history. That’s a comforting thought, not something to be flippant about. (“Oh, I can do this because I will be forgiven.”) No, that’s not the point.
To me, the most tragic person in the Passion narrative is Judas. He’s not the most tragic figure because he failed to see the divinity of our Lord standing in front of him. He’s the most tragic figure because when he realized his mistake, he killed himself instead of asking for forgiveness.
Peter and the other disciples abandoned Jesus, and they came back and were welcomed. Judas would have been welcomed too. God loves us so much that He sent his eternally begotten Son. In a stable two thousand years ago, He became one of us. Exactly like us in every way except sin. When He became one of us, He did not cease to be divine.
That same eternally begotten Son of God is in our Tabernacle and in just a little while, He will make an appearance on our altar, because of His great love for us, and because He will never abandon us. In a few moments when you come to receive Communion, the minister will say, “The body of Christ,” to which you will respond, “Amen.” I believe, I agree. I believe that this is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I believe that He died for us so that we could live forever. I believe that I am loved, no matter what I do or have done. Amen.