Columns From Bishop Brennan

Bishop Brennan’s 2023 Easter Homily

The following is the homily delivered by Bishop Robert Brennan during Easter Sunday Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James in Downtown Brooklyn.

The Lord is Risen, Alleluia! He is truly risen, Alleluia! Christus Vivit! Christ is alive!

Happy Easter, dear friends. Having walked together spiritually this Lenten pilgrimage, we have come together now to this great day of Easter Joy. Happy Easter, one and all.

This morning, I am exercising the option to take the Gospel reading from the Gospel of Matthew proclaimed at last night’s Easter Vigil. I would like to focus in on three moments in the Gospel which relate to our lives in a particular way. Permit me to begin with the second.

After the angel announces the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and sends them to tell the good news to the disciples, the Gospel tells them that they made their way – fearful yet overjoyed. 

Doesn’t that describe our Christian lives? We make our way as believers on this pilgrimage of life, fearful but overjoyed. There are many things in life that can fill us with fear or weigh us down. It can be the situation of the world, the reality of war and violence, the divisions that afflict our nation, the plight of people fleeing from persecution and violence, racial divides and prejudice, the culture of death. It takes in the violence in our own city, as in so many others, the sobering reality of the drug crises and a seemingly never-ending drift from God and the culture of faith. 

More often, it can be burdens we carry in our own lives and families: illness (our own or that of someone whom we love), mourning the death of a loved one, financial worries and instabilities, worries about our children, grandchildren, and our families. It is not an overstatement to say that our lives on Earth can indeed be fearful. But friends, we are Christians! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! We know in the core of our being that in Jesus, death is not the final answer. He lives, and because he lives, he is closer to us than we can possibly imagine. We are overjoyed!

The third moment: The women go off as the angel had told them, and what happens? Jesus meets them on the way! They actually see and hear the risen lord. They reach out to grasp his feet and hear his assuring words, “Do not be afraid.” They are not sent off to a temple or an isolated mountain. Jesus meets them along the way. They actually see Him. That is true for us. 

Jesus seeks us out and meets us on our way. He indeed shares our burdens and rejoices in our joys. It all matters to him. The women went to the empty tomb not because they could accomplish or change anything. What happened on Good Friday is done. No, they came in love. They went to be as close to Jesus as possible and did not find him there in the tomb. Rather, he found them. They went in love, and He found them along the way. 

He was closer to them than they had expected. Jesus meets us on the way, too, we who love Jesus. He meets us in the course of our day-to-day chores and realities. He nourishes us in the sacraments to deepen our love and to open our eyes to His living presence among us. But the encounter does not end here inside this church. 

Pope Francis tells us, “God does not offer us explanations, but rather his answer is “a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens a ray of life.” This ray of life is the Resurrection of Jesus. God does not give us explanations, he tells us the end of the story. We are overjoyed!

Now, the first moment. The angels tell the women: I know that you are seeking Jesus, the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples.

I know you are seeking Jesus the Crucified. How many are searching for Jesus? How many want to know Jesus and are just overwhelmed in fear, suffering, and grief? How many are seeking, not knowing it is Jesus who they seek? As the world drifts farther from God and the practice of faith, it seems that the sense of emptiness, isolation, and fear grows greater. The world seeks healing; However, it seeks a utopia, “a perfect world where if you have just the right amount of rules, everything will work out.” 

If only … fill in the blank … the world can be perfect. How interesting to see contemporary culture trying to adopt the trappings of faith that were once cast aside. While so many seek, it is Jesus, risen from the dead, who seeks to reach out and embrace. As the women discovered, Jesus is closer than they expected. 

I am often asked, “What is your Easter message?” The message I offer today comes down to Jesus’ own words after His resurrection: “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers and sisters to go to Galilee.” Well, let me interject: Tell my brothers and sisters to go to Brooklyn and Queens, and there they will see me.

Happy Easter! Do not be afraid. Go, and there we will see Jesus.