Jesus Continues in the Church

Homily for Easter Sunday

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection are the most important events in all of history. Everything before those days was leading up to those days. Everything following those days is the opportunity to live the graces of those days, the grace of having the risen Jesus in our lives. We could presume that the first person to see Jesus risen from the dead was his own mother Mary. The Gospels tell us about Jesus appearing to the apostles, Mary Magdalene and many others. In the Gospel today (John 20:1-9) we heard of Mary Magdalene, Peter and John seeing Jesus’ empty tomb and later in that chapter John tells us about Jesus’ appearing to them that day. In our first reading from Acts, Peter said that the Father “granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” (Acts 10:40-41) The life of Jesus and the meaning of his passion, death and resurrection has been impacting people ever since those days, more and more people every year. If you throw a stone into a pond it will cause a ripple to spread out more and more until eventually is gets to the edges of the pond and the entire pond has been affected. The graces of the death and resurrection of Jesus have been spreading out to more and more people ever since.

Those who were not privileged to see Jesus risen had their lives touched and impacted by those who did see Jesus and enjoyed the graces of the risen Jesus in their lives. Peter saw Jesus risen and his preaching impacted so many others. We read that three thousand people were baptized after Peter’s preaching at Pentecost (Acts 2:41). Jesus continued to be present after his resurrection, present through those who witnessed to him, present in the life of the Church. If you want to meet Jesus after his resurrection, the place to meet him is where the Church gathers. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus learned that Jesus was with them as he explained the Scriptures to them and then broke bread with them (Luke 24:13-35). Those two disciples learned that celebrating the Eucharist is where you can find Jesus. Jesus continues in the Church. This is expressed beautifully in the letter to the Ephesians where the Church is described as the Body of Christ and Christ is the head and the whole body is joined to him (Eph 4:15-16). How then can anyone who cuts himself or herself off from the life of the Church enjoy the fullness of Christ’s life? After Jesus’ resurrection, the place to find him is in the Church.

On Good Friday I spoke about the blood and water from Christ’s side on the cross symbolizing the sacraments, especially baptism and Eucharist, originating from Christ on the cross. That life of grace from the side of Christ continues in the Church to all who receive his sacraments. When you receive a sacrament you meet Christ just as the apostles met Jesus risen from the dead. The sacraments are encounters with Christ. After Jesus’ resurrection, the place to find the risen him is in the Church, especially in his sacraments.

We also find Jesus in the Church in the community of people who gather every week to worship God. Those who allow Jesus to touch them, allow Jesus to transform them to become more like Christ, and allow us to encounter Christ through the sincerity of their lives given to Jesus. A beautiful experience is to encounter someone who is close to the Lord, and when you meet that person you know you are in some way meeting Jesus. This is experiencing the risen Jesus continuing in the Church. Meeting people like that assures us that saying “Jesus continues in the Church” is not just words, but is true because we have experienced Jesus ourselves. Jesus continues in the Church. We know because we have experienced Jesus in the Church.

When we experience Jesus present with us, Jesus continuing in the Church, everything changes. What we heard in our second reading makes so much sense:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:1-3)

There is a new way to live when we have Jesus in our lives. There is a way to live that is incompatible with having Jesus in our lives and there is a way to live that reflects having Jesus in our lives. But there is something troubling happening today. Those who now live with Jesus in their lives are more and more being misunderstood, their freedom to live with Jesus in their lives is being more and more hindered, so much so that we are beginning to enter into a time of persecution of Christians. The early Christians were persecuted in Rome and martyred. If our society continues in its present direction, how much longer before Christians will be martyred in this country for no other reason than that they have experienced the risen Jesus in their lives and live their lives in a way to reflects that? But it is better to have experienced the risen Jesus and lived with his life before dying, than not.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:1-3)

© Fr. Tommy Lane 2015

This homily was delivered in a parish in Pennsylvania.

More homilies for Easter Sunday

The Resurrection of Jesus reminds us of the glorious future awaiting us

Jesus Risen is the Light of the World 2008

Christ is Risen! 2011

Jesus' Resurrection shows He is the Answer to our Questions 2016

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belief in the resurrection (excerpt of funeral homily)

cloth over Jesus’ head, The Sudarium

stories about the next life and death