God with Us and God for Us Easter1 Fr. Roberto
Homily for Easter Sunday
Fr. Roberto Corral, OP
St. Dominic’s Church, Eagle Rock, CA
April 4, 2021
Title: God with Us and God for Us
Theme: God is not just with us; he is also for us.
Gospel: Mark 16: 1-7
I know it’s Easter, but I want to take us all back to Christmas for a moment – it was just a couple of weeks ago, right? Anyway, what do we celebrate at Christmas? We celebrate Emmanuel, God with us. We celebrate our belief that our all-powerful, infinite God chose to be born as a human being.
This is because we believe that our God is not some aloof, distant, disinterested God, but a God who loves us so much that he became one of us. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.
But God did not want to stop there. He did not just want to be with us, he also wanted to forgive us, to save us and reconcile us to himself. So Jesus, the Son of God, not only came to be with us;
he also gave up his life on the cross for us on Good Friday. That means that our God who is with us also died for us, and because of his sacrificial death our sins are forgiven, we are saved and reconciled to God.
But once again, God did not stop there; God wanted even more for us. So what did God do? He raised Jesus from the dead. That is God’s greatest triumph. By raising Jesus from the dead, God defeated sin and death, once and for all, not just for Jesus but for all of us. God raised Jesus from the dead so that we could have eternal life. That is why you and I exist, so that we can live with God forever.
So, my brothers and sisters, what I want to tell you today on Easter, is that we celebrate a God who is not just with us; we celebrate a God who is also for us! In other words, God does not just want you to know that he loves you and is with you all the time. God also wants you to know he is for you: he is fighting for you, he gave his very life for you, and he continues to give you his Spirit, his love, grace, strength and mercy at every moment because he is not just with you, he is for you.
And when your life is finally over in this world, God wants you to live with him forever because God is for you.
Now, the problem for us is that, at times, it is so difficult to believe that God is with us and even harder to believe that he is for us, isn’t it? For you and me, it is easy to believe in Good Friday.
It is easy to believe in sin, death, hatred, and evil; it is easy to believe in the cross and suffering because we experience them in our world and in our lives all the time. We too, at times, cry out to God like Jesus did from the cross on Good Friday: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” But on Easter, God showed that he had never, never abandoned Jesus; God was there all along with him and for him on the cross and in the tomb. And in the same way he is with us and for us when we are on our crosses and when we are in our tombs. So, it is especially when you feel lost and broken, especially when you are surrounded by darkness, especially when you feel as if you are dead and buried that God wants you to know that he is not just with you, he is not just at your side and suffering with you; he is also for you. He is fighting for you to bring you through those difficulties to new life.
But in order to experience that new life, in order to experience the fullness of God being for us,
we have to understand two things. First of all, we have to understand that, in order for us to get to Easter, we first have to go through Good Friday in our lives, not just once, but again and again. As I said in my preaching series a couple of weeks ago, we have to die so that we can live. In other words, we have to renounce everything in ourselves and in our world that is not of God so that we can live the life God wants for us. As Jesus says various times in the gospels, we have to lose ourselves to find ourselves. That means we have to go through Good Friday to experience Easter Sunday. There is no resurrection without the cross – for Jesus or for us!
And that is not because God is punishing us when we experience suffering in our lives; it is because that is the only way God can transform us. God cannot transform us without our dying first. The process of our transformation is always death transformed, not death avoided; it is not death or resurrection, it is death and resurrection, Good Friday and Easter. That is always so hard for us humans because we want transformation without cost, without surrender, without dying. Once again, we cannot experience the Easter of transformation without the Good Friday of dying to ourselves, of surrender and letting go.
The second thing we have to understand in order to experience Easter and the fullness of God being for us is that we have to have a personal encounter with the risen Lord Jesus in our lives.
If you notice, in all the gospels, it is obvious that Jesus’ followers were not expecting his resurrection from the dead, in spite of the fact that he had told them several times it would happen. As in tonight’s Gospel, they were amazed, confused and even doubtful at first about his resurrection. It is not until they encounter and experience the risen Jesus face-to-face that they finally begin to believe and understand. For example, it is not until Mary Magdalen encounter and hears the risen Jesus call her by name that she recognizes him and realizes he is alive once again. It is not until Easter Sunday night when the apostles see Jesus face-to-face in the upper room and see his wounds and hear him speak to them that they begin to believe he is truly risen.
The same is true for us. We Catholics have been taught since we were children that Jesus rose from the dead. We Catholics say over and over again in our prayers and in the Creed at Mass that Jesus is risen. But our faith in Jesus has to be more than just some teaching that we know in our heads and more than just some words we have memorized and say now and then. It is not until we encounter the risen Jesus face-to-face in our lives that we come to believe with our hearts and not just in our heads, that we come to experience the full truth and impact of his resurrection; that we come to believe that he truly is God with us and God for us. It is only then that we can experience the Easter of new life and new possibilities.
So, my question and challenge for all of us who are here or who are watching from home is: Have you encountered the risen Jesus in your life? Do you believe that Jesus is with you and that he is for you? Or is Jesus just a distant God somewhere out there or somewhere in your head? My brothers and sisters, you won’t be transformed into the new life of Easter until you have gone through Good Friday and died to yourself. And you won’t “get” Jesus, you won’t “get” Easter, and you won’t “get” resurrection and new life, you won’t “get” life itself until you encounter Jesus face-to-face and heart-to-heart and realize that he is God with you and God for you.
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