Paulist seminarian Tom Gibbons reflects on his formation experience and his life as a seminarian right now. Along the way, some questions will be will be answered, and a lot more will come up.
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The Greatest Story Ever Told
The following is the homily that I gave on Easter Sunday at St. Austin’s. Since we are just beginning the Easter Season, I thought it still might be appropriate.
We have been telling and re-telling the story we just heard in the Gospel for 2,000 years. And with all stories that we know, there’s a certain comfort in familiarity. No matter how much fear creeps into the Agony in the Garden, no matter how brutal Good Friday becomes, we all know how the story ends.
But because we are so familiar with the story, it can get easy to forget one simple thing; after the death of Jesus, the people in today’s reading did not know how the story was going to end. In fact that Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Peter, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and everybody else at that time not only did not know how the story was going to end, they thought the story had already ended… badly.
A lot of us can probably relate to that… we don’t know how our individual stories are going to end. Some of us might be looking for a job, and we do not know if we are going to find one. Someone in our family may be sick and we do not know how everything is going to turn out. If you’ve been watching the news, our Church finds herself once again mired in scandal and betrayal on a systemic level and many are wondering if we didn’t learn our lessons eight years ago, will we ever learn them? And it’s because of all the Good Fridays around us that it can often be tempting to think that our stories have already ended… badly.
But that is exactly why the story of Jesus is The Greatest Story Ever Told. Because this is the larger story that we are invited to plug all of our individual stories into. This is the story that tells us all that EVERYTHING is going to work out in the end, even if the ending is something we never would have or could have predicted.
Easter is kind of a funny holiday – because it’s the one holiday of the year in which the date it falls constantly moves. Can anyone tell me what date Easter will fall on next year (WITHOUT checking Google)? Seriously. Christmas lands on December 25 every year. Saint Patrick’s Day always lands on March 17th. The Fourth of July always lands on… the Fourth of July! Even Thanksgiving; even though the specific date may change, we know that it always lands 4th Thursday of November. But Easter… that’s a moving target.
So it makes sense that there might be some people today who may not feel like they are in an Easter “place,” who might feel like their lives are still in the middle of Lent, who maybe even feel that they are still in the middle of Good Friday. Some people might not feel like they’re in any of those places—might not even know what I am talking about—but somehow the mood of “Easter” doesn’t feel quite right either.
But that’s because Easter is not about a particular date on the calendar… it’s about the ultimate tiebreaker of hope. Hope that we can not only cling onto, but hope that we can bank on.
Hope that lets us know that no matter how tough Lent might be, there is a Sunday morning waiting for all of us that features a Snickers bar and a chocolate bunny. Hope that lets us know that no matter how tied we are to the crosses are in our lives, the ultimate salvation really is waiting around the corner for all of us.
Hope that lets us know that whatever place we may be in our lives, Jesus is there to welcome us into the sunshine of a new day.