Imagine if the sun had no effect.
Imagine what it would be like if the days got longer and longer each spring, and the sun came closer and shone brighter - and nothing happened. Days would be longer – but just as cold. Flowers and trees would put forth buds, only to have them covered over with snow, not blossoms. Fruit would be out of the question.
I admit this grim scenario is brought to mind by the seemingly interminable extension of winter and tantalizing postponement of spring we have endured lately. My inner Alabaman groans at every forecast of further chill, every bright sunny day that bites with Arctic teeth any soul foolish enough to step out into what should be a spring day.
But I can indulge in such apocalyptic complaining, because I know that the end is near - the end of winter, that is. The sun's share of the day is growing, and we will not be denied its warmth and light. Soon enough, we will be seeking shade, or worse, air conditioning! Unless something - say, a great cloud of volcanic debris - come between us and the sun, there is no chance that the sun will not warm our part of the planet into verdant fruitfulness.
Imagine if the Resurrection had no effect.
Imagine if one day, a long time ago, a man dead three days had risen from his tomb and gone about visiting his friends, explaining how he had predicted this all along. Imagine that after this bizarre phenomenon, he was somehow different, so that he could go through closed doors, and sometimes go unrecognized by people who had known him well. But he was also somehow the same, eating and drinking and laughing with his friends, who saw his face and touched his hands and knew him immediately. And then he disappeared into the sky.
Would we treasure the story, like we do snatches of information of long-dead ancestors who migrated from faraway lands? Or would we simply memorize it with other data, like William the Conqueror in 1066, Christopher Columbus in 1492, and the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII?
Sometimes it can seem as if the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus has been confined to just this kind of category: a blip on the historical radar, an anomaly, a curiosity, a story of once upon a time, and only once. It has been buried beneath an avalanche of conflicting data and contrary opinions.
That impressive late-spring snow we had last week covered everything with an inarguable winter. The sun was invisible behind thick clouds all day, and the air temperature hovered near freezing. Nonetheless, the snow didn’t stand a chance. It melted, first on the pavement, and then on the grass and trees. The ultraviolet rays from that invisible spring sun were strong enough to warm the ground despite the cloud cover and cold breeze.
Like the sun, the Risen Christ is at work whether seen or not, whether acknowledged or denied. Christ is risen, and that reality, though invisible, is at work now, in the lives of us who have been baptized into it, and even where ignorance or hostility reject it. Behold, I make all things new! This radiance changes the world in its substance, and makes lives inhospitable to death. Unless something - say, a great cloud of persistent sin - come between us and our Savior, Christ our Sun, there is no chance that the Risen One will not warm our lives into abundant fruitfulness.
So do not imagine your own destruction. The sun will warm you, and Christ Jesus is risen from the dead. The Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, even though we cannot see it ourselves, is what is real, in this world, and in us. This is who we are and what we are for.
On this holy day, may you grow in awareness of and gratitude for this radiant truth that makes life possible. Father McDonell, Father McCabe, and all of us here at your parish pray that you enjoy this reality, and bask in the glory of a blessed Easter. Amen. Alleluia!