Bishop Hartmayer challenges an Easter people to "move toward the light, break out of our shell, live as a people who have been saved"
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist | Savannah, Georgia
Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv.
March 27, 2016
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
When I was in the fourth grade, one of my many girl friends gave me a little new born chick as a pet. To my surprise my parents let me keep it as long as I took care of it and as long as it stayed in my room.
But of course, the chick grew into a chicken very quickly and before long my little chick grew out the box that I kept it in and it out grew our house, as well.
It was a sad day when we drove to a small petting zoo that became my little chick’s new home.
Chicks and bunnies and eggs have long been symbols of Easter and the resurrection.
In Germany, in the 19th century, Catholics were not permitted to eat eggs during Lent and so on Easter, eggs were, not only a symbol of new life and they also were a sign of the end of the Lenten fast.
For centuries, the world has marked the Resurrection of the Lord with eggs. But the real Easter meaning of the egg is found in the struggle of the chick to free itself from its confines so it can take flight into a much bigger world and beyond.
In the very earlier stages of the gestation of an egg, the teeny tiny chick weighs a little more than air. Its beak and claws are barely the size of the point of a pin.
The bird-to-be is in its own little world: protected by the rigid shell and warmed by the body of the mother hen.
But then the chick begins the work of life. Over several days the chick keeps picking and picking until it can break out from its narrow little world.
But for this to happen, the egg has to go to pieces. New life demands the shattering of the old.
That is the real Easter Egg. Not a complete egg dyed and painted with so many designs and colors. Not an egg that has been hardboiled, impossible to shatter. Not an egg made of chocolate.
The real Easter Egg is shattered and destroyed. The real Easter egg exists in broken pieces. The real Easter Egg is cracked open, yielding new life that has taken flight.
The egg is a great symbol of Easter and of the Resurrection and it is also a great symbol of how we need to break open the tomb that we have been living in… and... live in the light and experience the liberation and the freedom of our redemption.
Our celebration of the great mystery of Easter is a challenge to look deeply into the empty tomb and consider what it really means, not just for Jesus rising from the dead... but also for us who share in His resurrection.
Jesus is risen... but are we? Do we live as a redeemed people? He is no longer to be found among the dead, but among the living... but is the same true for us?
Sometimes it is easier for us to remain in the tomb: depressed or anxious, no matter how painful... than it is for us to straighten up or settle down or to finally do something about our situation. It takes a lot of work to pick through that shell.
Sometimes it is easier for us to remain in the tomb: trapped in a job or a lifestyle or an addiction... than it is to break free.
Sometimes it is easier for us to remain in the tomb and be a victim than it is to take responsibility for ourselves, for others, and for the world.
Quite frankly, sometimes, it is easier to roll over and play dead than it is for us to act alive.
The shattered egg and the empty tomb present us with endless opportunities to look ahead, to move forward, to live, to be grateful for all God’s blessings and to look hopefully to the real possibilities of our own resurrection into eternal life.
These are the real possibilities that Easter presents to us each year.
But some of us just don’t get it...
Easter calls us to a brand new vision. God did not make us to lie in a tomb or to be burdened by a gloom and doom view of the world.
But to move toward the light and break out of our shell and live as a people who have been saved by the one who broke out of the tomb.
In our redemption we have been called to evangelize… and like Mary Magdalene who ran to tell Peter and the other disciple the “good news” of the empty tomb, to tell all the world that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
But how do we take the theological proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection and put it into practice? In other words, “how do we make our Easter Sunday into an Easter Monday, and an Easter Tuesday and an Easter next week and an Easter next month and an Easter next year?”
Living as risen beings, here and now, means living free from “fear”. If we truly believe in the resurrection of Jesus, then we must renounce all fear. Fear must never again be the motive for anything that we do or do not do.
Fear enslaves those who welcome it in their lives. Fear binds and burdens all those who allow it into their thinking, into their decisions, into their prayer. If we are Easter people, then we will not act out of fear, we will not choose out of fear, we will not worship God out of fear.
The empty tomb presents us with endless opportunities to look ahead, to move forward, to live, to be grateful for all God’s blessings and to look hopefully to the real possibilities of our own resurrection into eternal life. And we can begin to experience the resurrection NOW.
Yes, Easter is an attitude; Easter is liberation; Easter is life, our life, in the here and now.
May this morning open us up to new possibilities and experiences of God’s extraordinary grace and mercy transforming our most ordinary of days.
On behalf of Fr. Schreck, Msgr. O’Neill, Fr. Firmin and Fr. Pablo and the entire staff at the Cathedral, I wish you and your family a very Happy Easter.