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4/20/19 Easter Sunday - Fr. Reggie

St Peter makes a strange announcement to us today.  We are surrounded by the joy of Christ's definitive victory over sin and death, a victory we share through our faith and the sacraments. And Peter mentions this victory. But then he says that he and the other Apostles have been commissioned by God to preach and to testify that Jesus "is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead." In the midst of his joyful Easter discourse, Peter brings up that most uncomfortable and somber topic: judgment. He reminds us, at the moment when we are all supposed to be full of joy and delight, that on a day not too far away we will all go before the throne of Jesus Christ and be judged.

It's not news for us

Every Sunday we say we believe that Jesus "will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead."

And yet, what place does judgment have amidst the joy of Easter? Judgment is frightening, isn't it?

Partly. But it is also our greatest source of hope. Justice is not done in this world. Here the innocent suffer, good guys get trampled on, and evil prospers. And yet, Christ rose from the dead to prove that suffering and injustice will not be the last word.

And so, all the losses we suffer here in this fallen world because we follow Christ, by struggling to be honest, pure, faithful, kind, and attentive to the needs of our neighbors, all that hardship and humiliation that comes from following Christ here on earth will be made up for a hundredfold on Judgment Day, when Christ will set everything right.

The Resurrection is Christ's promise that justice will be done.

For many centuries, Christian churches, basilicas, and Cathedrals were constructed on an east-west axis.

The altar would be on the eastern end. When the faithful would gather there for Mass in the morning, the bright light of the sunrise would filter through the windows in the apse. This was a natural symbol for the Second Coming of Christ, which will cast out forever the shadows of injustice and suffering. This Second Coming is prefigured at every Mass, in the Eucharist, when Christ truly comes, but under the veil of the Sacrament.

The main entrance and exit of the Church would be on the western end.

The sunset, which occurs in the west, was a natural symbol for death and judgment, which lies at the end of life's journey for each one of us.

This western end of the church was often decorated with two things, to stir up people's hope as they left the beautiful liturgy and returned to the struggles of every day.

First, there was huge clock.  Some historians say the clock was there, behind the congregation and facing the pulpit, to remind the priests to keep their homilies short, which may be true. But mainly, the clock would remind the faithful as they left the church that our earthly life is short, and time is passing.

Second, there was a painting or sculpture of the Last Judgment. Modern atheists accuse the church of putting it there just to scare the "superstitious" believers. But for a Christian, the reminder of Judgment is inspiring, encouraging and comforting. If we stay close to Christ, we know that there will be a happy ending, no matter how difficult the adventure that gets us there may be, because Christ has risen from the dead to eternal life.

Jesus has risen, and his personal victory over death and evil is also his promise of everlasting justice still to come.

This promise should fill us with the joy of Easter and the courage we need to live as authentic Christians.

After all, it is easier to go along with the gossip session instead of keeping silence or changing the subject, but we are Christians, so we do the right thing even when it's not the easy thing.

It is easier to follow the path everyone else is following in life, instead of saying yes to God's call to become a priestmissionary, or consecrated religious, but we are Christians, and we know that Christ's own power will be at our service if we follow where he leads.

It is easier to do what everyone else is doing at work, fudging the books, looking the other way, compromising the truth - in fact, it's the "only way to get ahead," so they say, but we are Christians, and we know that justice will be done, and this gives us the wisdom to do the right thing, no matter the cost.

It is easier to give into peer pressure when it encourages us to indulge in sinful pleasures, instead of respecting God's plan for our lives, but we are Christians, and the Cross is our secret weapon, reminding us always that Christ's love is the reason behind everything he asks us to do and not to do.

Following Christ to the joy of the resurrection means following him through pain of the cross, which only makes sense in light of the promised Final Judgment.

It is a countercultural thing to do. But Christ has promised that it's worth it. 

And no one else's promise is as sure as his.

 

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