Easter 2019 - God Makes Good on His Promise
Today we celebrate the greatest and most important event in all of history - the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!
St. Francis Borgia illustrates for us, along with the apostles, the example of allowing the reality of the Resurrection to forever change us. After the death of Queen Isabella of Portugal, whom he was deeply devoted to, he swore to never again serve a mortal master. He resigned as Duke, gave his money away, joined the newly founded Jesuit order, and became a great saint.
After Jesus died, the lives of the apostles were obliterated. The one in whom they had placed their hopes and all their faith, the very purpose and meaning of their life was dead. But then, because of the resurrection, new life with hope and peace and joy, because sin and death had been destroyed and conquered by God in the flesh. Everything was forever changed.
No amount of disdain, threats, persecutions, torture, or even death could dissuade the apostles because the Resurrection means unmistakably and unforgettably that God is in charge and that He makes good on all His promises. And it all starts with the fact of the empty tomb.
Full Audio Transcript
00:02 Well, a blessed Easter to all of you. The Lord Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and I pray that his grace will fill your hearts and with strength and life and want to offer a special welcome to for family and friends that are visiting.
00:19 Uh, actually my, my parents are here as well. My father here helping me at the altar as a deacon and I have other cousins here in the, in the congregation as well. You're all very welcome here today to celebrate the greatest and most important event in all of history - the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
00:42 Let me ask you this, have you ever had an experience that suddenly and completely changed your life? Have you ever had a moment that made you question everything you ever believed in or lived for, or had one of those moments where you suddenly wondered what your whole life was really about.
01:04 One person who had this kind of experience with Saint Francis Borgia. He was the Duke of Gandia in Spain in the 16th century. And as a young man, he was one of the handsomest, richest and most honored nobles of his country. And he was very devoted and loyal to the very beautiful and powerful empress, Isabella of Portugal who loved him and trusted him.
01:34 And thus Francis was stricken and devastated, when in 1539 the queen suddenly died. King Charles the fifth, the Queen's husband laid upon Borgia the sad duty of escorting the body of his sovereign queen to the royal burial place in Granada. And the journey was long and hot and because of delays, it took two weeks to finally reach Granada and nobleman and princes and bishops gathered for the internment at the burial vault. But before they interred the queen's body, duty required that the coffin be open to verify that the body was truly that of Queen Isabella. Open the coffin, the bishop commanded and called upon Francis Borgia to step forward and identify the earthly remains of the Queen.
02:31 Frances stepped forward and stood silent while they slowly raised the coffin lid. And he was recalling the beauty of the queen and longing to look for the one last time on that fair face, that matchless form, which he had so devoutly served.
02:53 But when he looked into the coffin, he shuddered and drew back. So foul a stench and a sight that assaulted his eyes. Instead of gazing one last time upon her beauty, he saw a putrefying decaying flesh amid the still glittering gold of the royal robes. And seeing the Duke hesitate, the bishop asked: are these the remains of the Queen? Silence. Bishop asks a second time, Francis Borgia Duke of Gandia tell us now, are these the remains of Queen Isabella Emperess of Portugal?
03:36 Another long pause of silence. Then Francis Borgia turned toward all present and swore that the body was indeed, that of Queen Isabella, but then he did something that people were not expecting, he further swore that from that moment on he would never again serve a master who is mortal. And even though Francis Borgia was a believing Catholic, that traumatic moment exposed the illusion of what he had built his life on: power, comfort, wealth, beauty, prestige, vanity, all things which eventually and inevitably deteriorate and return to dust.
04:28 The earthquake of that experience moved him to set his life in a new direction. I will never again serve a mortal master and that's what he did. He left. He resigned as Duke gave his money away and joined the newly founded Jesuit order and became a Jesuit priest and died a saint. He dedicated himself the rest of his life to the service of Jesus Christ, eternal King, the one who triumphed over sin and death.
05:10 Now most of us don't have such dramatic conversions, but most of us busy as we are sometimes stop to wonder, what is my life about? What am I trying to accomplish? What have I built my life upon? What does my life mean? The Gospel stories of the resurrection give us some examples of people whose lives were set in a new direction after gazing into a tomb, a tomb not holding a body undergoing corruption and decay. A tomb that was empty.
05:56 Consider Mary Magdalene, and the other women, or Peter and John and the rest of the disciples on the day of the resurrection to call them dejected, lost and profoundly saddened, only begins to describe what they were going through.
06:15 Their whole universe had been obliterated. Everything they had built their life on had been swept away. And not only had they witnessed Jesus, their friend and master, brutally tortured and executed, nailed naked to a cross as a common criminal, but also they had based their life on the fact that he was long awaited Messiah. That he was the son of the father, God the son incarnate. And therefore not only were they mourning the death of a loved one, which is already hard enough as any of us who have lost a loved one know.
07:03 But they also had to come to grips with the fact that the one in whom they had placed their hopes and all their faith, the very purpose and meaning of their life was dead. And while the apostles locked themselves and their sorrow and despair in the upper room, and in some ways this upper room was in its own way, a kind of tomb, the courageous Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary, the mother of James, went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried to finish their mourning and to solemnly anoint his broken body. And they were concerned about how they were going to get into the tomb. Until they found that the stone had already been rolled away. And when they. Looked inside, they didn't find a corpse. The tomb was empty. And an angel told the women that Jesus had been raised and then our Lord himself appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden spoke her name and filled her life with purpose and mission. She was to give the most important message to the world. Go tell the apostles that Jesus is risen.
08:25 Peter and John then ran to the tomb stooping to look inside and they found it empty. And the burial cloths still there as a sign that the body had not been stolen away, but that Jesus had been raised.
08:42 He then appeared to the apostles in the upper room and filled them with his joy and peace, and gave their lives purpose and meaning and a mission: as the father sent me, so I send you. Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, bestowing on them the Holy Spirit himself so that they could forgive sins in the Lord's name.
09:14 Everything which had been destroyed two days before was now, not just restored, but had taken a quantum leap. A new life with hope and peace and joy, because sin and death had been destroyed and conquered by God in the flesh. Everything was forever changed.
09:42 The resurrection was the answer to all their questions, the resolution of all their doubts, the definitive peace to all their anxiety, the joy to all their sadness, the forgiveness of all their sins. And God's definitive response to the mystery of all suffering and death in this world. Life in general and their lives in particular was no longer, not only, not a tragedy. Their life now had immeasurable meaning and purpose. They were the disciples and intimate friends of the one who had conquered sin and death.
10:31 Now, they did not serve a mortal master. They were now empowered and emboldened by Him to take that greatest news ever told to the ends of the earth and for all times until He came again. And no amount of disdain, threats, persecutions, torture, or even death could dissuade them because the resurrection means and taught unmistakably and unforgettably that God is in charge and that He makes good on all His promises. And it all starts with the fact of the empty tomb.
11:22 The empty tomb is a provocation. It's there in history. No one contests the tomb was empty. So what happened there? Where is the body of Jesus of Nazareth? The man who claimed to be God and the tomb confronts us all with a test of faith.
11:50 Now, the empty tomb does not force us to believe, but it does demand an answer. It challenges us to answer a question that every reasonable person in this world must answer: What happened that Easter morning 2000 years ago? Jesus was buried in a tomb. It was sealed and now the tomb is empty. What happened? And if we are serious about it, if we think about it, if we open our hearts to the grace of faith, then we too can come to the same conclusion as Mary and Peter and John and that encounter with the empty tomb can open up the possibility of looking into the living eyes of Jesus.
12:52 Faith can lead us to encountering him. Just as on that first Easter, I think about last night we had 13 people, 11 of which were baptized. All last night staking their lives on the fact of the resurrection. This is the question for us, and so brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead. Frances Borgia met him through the disturbing event or the burial of his beloved Queen Isabella, and his life was forever changed and he died a saint. It's time that we too met the risen Christ.