TEXT: Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of the Lord, March 31, 2024

March 31, 2024 Father De Celles Homily

Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of the Lord                        

March 31, 2024

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 Last night at the Easter Vigil, we began that beautiful liturgy in total darkness.

Suddenly, a light pierced the darkness—the Easter fire moving into the Church atop the great Easter Candle, and all the darkness was shattered.

The contrast between the darkness and light was a stunning,

         truly dramatic way to begin this most Holy Feast,

         and altogether fitting considering the contrast

         between the horrible death of Jesus on Friday

                  and His glorious resurrection today!

This dealing in contrasts is not new today.

In fact, for the last forty plus days of Lent, the Church has been focusing

         on some huge contrasts in our lives.

As we’ve meditated on the suffering of Jesus,

         we’ve discovered that He suffered because He loved us

         and wanted to free us from our sins and the sins around us.

At the same time, we’ve discovered that sin is nothing less than

         failing to love as we should

                  —not as we’d like to imagine love is,

                           or as others try to convince us love is;

                           but failing to love as love really is,

                           as God, Who is love, created love to be.

So, we see this radical contrast between Christ’s amazing love for us

         that leads Him to accept the most terrible suffering

         (the scourging, the mockery, the spittle, the nails,

         carrying the Cross, and the torturous death on the Cross)

                  and our miserably consistent choices not to love–

                  especially not to love Him.

And so, much of Lent rightly focused on sorrow for our sins

         —sadness because in response to this beautiful love that Jesus has for us, we repeatedly returned its diametric hideous opposite.


And yet, even in this sorrow of Lent,

         the contrast between Christ’s love and our failure to love

         led us to see another contrast:

The contrast between our necessary sorrow for our sins

         and the inherent joy we discovered in the fact that

                  in spite of, and even because of, our rejection of His love,

         Christ still loves us so much that He suffered and died as He did.

Now, in this last week, and especially on Good Friday, that contrast seemed to fade,

         and any joy was completely overwhelmed by sorrow

         as we hung our heads in shame with St. Peter at our denial of Jesus’ love,

         and as we wept with the Blessed Mother and the Magdalene

         as we witnessed the pain of our loving Savior.

Only sorrow remained.


Then, suddenly, the contrast between sorrow and joy returned,

         as the earth stood still holding its breath at the cusp of death and new life:

                  The Crucified Lord has Risen!

The darkness is there; we see it. It envelopes us, but then, in an instant,

         the light shines forth, first piercing the darkness,

                  and then totally obliterating it.

For a brief moment, we saw the stark contrast between

         sorrow and joy, suffering and glory, darkness and light,

                  death and Resurrection.

And then all that was left was the Resurrection.

         How can we think of sorrow, suffering, and death?

         All is joy and glory!

Christos Anesti (kree-STOHSS ah-NES-tee)…

         Alithos Anesti! (ah-lee-THOHSS ah-NES-tee)

Christus resurrexit! Vere resurrexit!

Christ is risen! He is truly risen!

The power of the infinite love of God for man—and for each one of us—

         has conquered evil and saved us from sin.

And so, we rejoice and sing, “May God be praised–Alleluia!”

And the world is changed forever!


Or is it?

If the Love of God has conquered sin and death in the Resurrection,

         is there still sin, suffering, and death in the world?

Of course, yes.

Does the Resurrection really eliminate the contrast between

         the perfect love of Christ

         and our oh so many failures to love?

Of course not.

Sadly, for too many of us, the contrast between God’s love and human sin

         remains all too present and real

         —for us personally and for most of the world around us.

And the danger is that the joy we rightly feel

         in responding to the good news of the Resurrection

         may become merely a mask to cover, or an excuse to ignore, that contrast.

Yet the Resurrection is real, and the joy sincere and just,

         because the victory is complete.

By His Resurrection, Christ has thrown open the door to eternal life with Him to all who choose to pass through.

But only if they choose to pass through that door

         —that door which is the love of Jesus.


So, we’re faced with yet another contrast–

         the choice to love and the choice not to love.

And still another contrast besides–

         recognizing that our definition of love is often radically opposed

                  to God’s definition of true love:

         Ours is based largely on selfishness

         while His is based totally on selfless self-giving, as the Cross makes clear.

But this is a day of joy,

         not a day to wallow in hopelessness and discouragement.

So, we learn from our Savior

         and go back to the time when Jesus confronted the same contrast.

Just hours before He went to the Cross, He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.

There, standing on the precipice of all His suffering,

         as He looked a few hours into the future, He saw very clearly

         the contrast between the great pain He was about to enter into

                  and His perfectly innocent human desire to avoid that pain.

Then He looked ahead, far ahead into the distant future, for centuries to come,

         and saw the contrast between His suffering for the love of mankind

         and all the sins that would go on being committed in spite of that love

         —even the sins you and I will, sadly, commit this very day.

And He saw all this and said, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.”

He had a choice: the human way or the divine way.

He chose the divine: “Not My will, but thine be done.”

This is our choice today:

         between God’s will and ours;

         between God’s sublime way of loving

                  that leads to friendship with God in this world

                  and eternal happiness with him in the next,

         and our corrupted way of loving that leads only to despair and death

                  —both here and in eternity.

In a certain sense, the choice is really easy.

         Who doesn’t want to live now and forever

         with the God who loves us so much that He died for us?

Who, in the midst of suffering and sorrow in this world,

         doesn’t want the one who conquered death itself to be our brother?

Who doesn’t want eternal life over eternal death?

Who doesn’t want to love and be loved by Jesus?

Then again, it’s not so easy.

The contrast remains: Our ways are not God’s ways.

We have to change.

And one choice is not enough. We have to constantly, from moment to moment,

          repeatedly and continuously renew that choice to love as He loves.

We will be tempted by the scars and shadows

         of our old sins and the weakness they build up in us.

And we will be constantly tempted by those around us—including the devil—

         who choose the other way, choosing their will over God’s will.   

But the wonderful thing is,

         the Resurrection wasn’t just one day that came and went.

It endures as Jesus Christ IS risen!

Christ is alive!

And the same divine power that lifted up and transformed His torn and mangled dead corpse into the glorified body that rose from the tomb (and is now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven),

         that same divine power, that grace, flows out on us,

most especially in the Sacraments received at this Mass,

to lift us up out of sin and sorrow

                  and into the love and joy we were meant for.

The power of His grace changes all things—if we choose to change,

         if we choose to truly love, and if we choose to accept that grace.


For forty days we reflected on the stark contrast between

         God’s tremendous love for us and our repeated failures to love Him.

We mourned for these sins and for the pain we’ve caused our Lord.

But today we celebrate and rejoice

         in the power of that love

         to help us to become the men and women

         He created us to be, that He calls us to be,

                  and that He suffered, died and rose for us to be.

Even so, the contrast remains and is real.

So, let us not use the joy of this day

         as a mask to cover, or an excuse to ignore, the enduring contrast between the way of divine love and the way of human sin.

Rather, let us allow this joy to draw us forward,

         that by the grace of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ,

         we may choose to always live in the love of Christ,

         so that the contrast between us and Him becomes less and less every day:

                  that we might love as He loves,

                  by the power of His love, His grace,

that conquers even death itself.