You Will Appear With Him in Glory

 

April 17, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier   Easter Sunday

Reading I (Acts 10:34a, 37-43) 

 Reading II (Colossians 3:1-4)

Gospel (St. John 20:1-9)

 

When Christ your life appears in glory, you will appear with Him in glory. These words of Saint Paul in the second reading today from his Letter to the Colossians tell us something very important about Our Lord and about ourselves. Saint Paul said also, “You are already seated with Him at God’s right hand.” And because of this, he tells us, we need to set our sights on the things of Heaven, not on the things of earth. Today, as we celebrate this great solemnity of Easter, we celebrate the single most important thing that has ever happened in human history. In the Church’s entire calendar year, today is the greatest feast of all. From a secular perspective, with a quasi-religious element to it, Christmas tends to be the one where the focus is placed; but from the Church’s perspective, the most important feast of the entire year is the one that we celebrate today.

 

Today death has been destroyed, death which has a bondage on each and every one of us. From the moment that we are conceived, each one of us is doomed one day to die; and for thousands of years of human history there was no hope. The Jews, as they worked their way through their history, began to recognize that the souls of the just somehow continued to live, but they did not yet have the concept of the resurrection. They did not understand any idea of being able to live with God. They believed in a nether world, in a place of the dead, and indeed at that time that was all there was. When a person died, whether they were good or bad, they went into this place of the dead. It is to there also that Jesus went in those three days that He was in the tomb. Saint Peter says it very simply by saying that He went to preach to those in prison. So from the time of Adam and Eve, all the way up to the day that Jesus rose from the dead, every soul that died went into this place. There was still a clear delineation between those who were just and those who were unjust, those who would one day be able to rise and go into Heaven and those who would rise and be condemned for eternity, but they were all still in this place apart from God because of sin. So on Friday, when we celebrated Our Lord’s death, we celebrated the fact that sin had been destroyed.

 

But it is not enough that sin be destroyed if it still means that we are going to have to enter into death and stay there. And so Our Lord for our sake endured death. Saint Peter, in the first reading today, spoke about all the things that happened in Judah and Jerusalem. He talked about all the things that happened from the time of the baptism of John, all the way through the good works that Jesus did to the time, he says, when they hung Him on a tree. Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Galatians, reminds us that in the law it says that anyone who is hung upon a tree is cursed. Jesus took the curse for us. And the greatest curse of all is the curse of death. In death there is no hope; it is the end; it is darkness; there is nothing beyond (for those who are not Christian). But Jesus entered into death in order to be the victor over death. He tasted death for our sake so that we would be able to have life. We know now as Christian people that, like Jesus, we will have to enter into death someday but it is only a change from what we know in this life, in this vale of tears, in this place of sorrows, in this world of suffering. When you talk to a person who is elderly and suffering greatly, they look forward to death because they know that on one level it will be the end to all of their suffering, but they know also that it is going to be the passage into something that is far more beautiful than what they have ever known here. So they enter into death with Jesus in order to enter into life with Jesus.

 

In the Resurrection, the human body of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and God, rose glorious from the tomb. It took on a new form and was glorified. No longer held bound by the physical limitations of the human body, Our Lord was able to come forth from the tomb, was able to walk through the walls, was able to appear only to those to whom He wished to appear. As Saint Peter again made very clear, He did not appear to all but only to those who had been chosen beforehand, “by us,” he says, “who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.” He was still human and He remains human for all eternity. But He is also divine. And because in Baptism we have entered into the death and Resurrection of Christ, we know that our bodies will rise from the dead. This body, the one sitting right here in the pew, is going to rise from the dead and it will live for all eternity along with your soul. Now the question, of course, is whether you are going to rise to life or whether you have chosen eternal death. For those who separate themselves from God, they have chosen eternal death, the living dead, because they will rise from the dead; that is, they will rise from physical death. But as the prophet Daniel tells us, they will rise to be an “everlasting horror and disgrace”. But for those who make the choice for Jesus Christ, the prophet Daniel tells us that they will “shine like the stars in the sky”. Saint Paul tells us, “Eye has not seen and ear has not heard nor has it so much as dawned on the imagination of man what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

 

So when we think in this world about the most joyful thing that we have ever experienced, no matter what it is, the most wonderful thing that has ever happened in your life, it is as nothing in comparison to what God has prepared for us, a mere tiny foreshadowing of the joy and the glory that God has waiting for you. But already you have entered into that spiritually. Just as in Baptism you spiritually entered into the death and the Resurrection of Christ, so now united with Christ – as He has taken our humanity with Him, bringing it out of the tomb and bringing it now into the eternity of Heaven – you, Saint Paul says, are seated with Him. Your humanity has already been translated into eternal life; all that remains is for you to go there physically, but spiritually you are already there in Christ.

 

That is why Saint Paul tells us that we have to set our sights on Heaven. This is absolutely crucial because we live in a world that tells us this is all there is. We live in an atheistic and pagan society. We live in a world that does not believe in the resurrection from the dead. We live in a world that says, “Live for today because this is all there is. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die!” As Christian people, we say, “That is nonsense, heresy!” And we have to reject it. We do not live for this life but for the next because Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed. We have eaten of the Lamb and we have His Blood sprinkled upon our souls so that the Angel of Death will pass over us and we will pass through death into life. The beautiful thing about being members of Jesus Christ is that Our Lord will never ask anything of us that He has not done Himself, and so He tells us in Saint John’s Gospel that where He is we also will be. But we have to follow where He leads. Saint Peter tells us that He has left us an example to follow in His footsteps. And so we know that is what we need to do. We need to follow Him to Calvary, but we need to follow Him through death and into life.

 

For us, life does not end at the moment that the physical body dies because we know that the soul will live on forever. The soul goes immediately at the moment of death to its judgment, but we also know that the body will rise from the grave, that our souls will be reunited with our bodies and our bodies will be reanimated but with a glorified soul. Our bodies will be like the risen body of Jesus Christ, no longer held bound by the physical limitations which we have here, no longer subject to sickness, to weakness, to fatigue, to suffering, to any of the physical problems that we have. Our glorified bodies, then, will be translated into Heaven where they will be united with God for eternity and where no torment will touch them and every tear will be wiped away.

 

That is what we celebrate today in Jesus Christ. Yet it is not Christ alone, but all of those who are united with Him. And so as we share in the death of Christ, as we share in the suffering of Christ, so too God holds out for each one of us a share in the glory of Christ. We simply need to choose Him – to set our sights on Heaven where Christ is already seated at God’s right hand and you are seated there with Him in glory – so that when Christ your life appears in glory, you will appear with Him. And then for all eternity, united with Christ and sharing in His Resurrection, you will glorify God in the glory of your resurrected body. In the new and glorified existence which you will live, you will share in the victory over sin and death with Christ and glorify God forever.

 

 

*  This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.