Sunday, April 1, 2018
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 


Unless you live on some other planet, you have heard of Sr. Jean, the 98 year old religious sister who is chaplain to the Loyola basketball team that in the final four.  She has a connection to our archdiocese since she is a Dubuque BVM sister.  If I was to put up a billboard to advertise our Catholic faith, I would put Sr. Jean's face on it.  Her face shows what Pope Francis called the joy of the Gospel, and perhaps the joy of basketball too.  In a recent interview. Sr. Jean spoke of her role as chaplain.  She said, "Before the game I lead the team in prayer.  We pray for our team, that we play well and no one gets injured.  We pray for the referees, so that they call a fair game.  And we pray for the other team . . . but not as hard!"


Sr. Jean gets excited about a victory in basketball, and we in Ames get excited when the Cyclones have a victory. But these victories pale in comparison to Easter, which is the greatest victory of all time.  Jesus is risen.  He has defeated all sin and death. Victory is now given to all who belong to him.


This past Holy Thursday after Mass, I went to see the new movie Paul the Apostle. It is good, but not great.  It reminded me of how Paul was totally transformed by Christ.  Remember how he went from being Saul, zealous in his persecution of the church, then had a dramatic encounter with the risen Christ, and went on to become Paul, the fearless missionary to the world.  He was exiled, beaten and tortured, and yet in the midst of it all, Paul was a man of great hope.


His hope was contagious.  He founded many churches over 30 years.  The power of the Gospel he preached attracted not cultural Catholics who do the minimum, but people who made a decisive decision for Christ.  To say that Jesus is Lord meant you may be killed, and in fact, Paul himself was beheaded in Rome.


The power unleashed by the resurrection continues today in our Church.  Do you know that in the last 100 years, there have been more martyrs for our faith than in the previous 1900 years combined?  Especially in the Middle East and Africa, in Asia and Central and South America, almost every day we see new martyrs for our faith.  And where there are martyrs, there the Church is vibrant and growing.  These sisters and brother in the Lord have found something our world lacks and needs:  a life-changing and life-shaping personal relationship with Jesus Christ.


St. Paul was a man of hope, and his hope was contagious.  His hope flowed from his encounter with the risen Jesus.  Because he never lost sight of his ultimate goal, he was able to persevere through many trials and tribulations.  And that was my takeaway from the movie.  If we keep our eyes on our ultimate goal, we also can persevere through many trails and tribulations.


To the church at Corinth, Paul wrote: "If Christ was not raised from the dead, your faith is worthless.  If our hope in Christ is limited to this life only, we are the most pitiable of people."  This great hope in the resurrection of Jesus shaped the whole of Paul's life.  For him, salvation was not reduced to some ticket into heaven, but changed the whole of his life.


Jesus does this for us too.  He gives us a joy, a love, a hope that this world does not understand.  Today when so many people are defeated by life, Jesus says, "Come to me.  Stop trying to live life on your own power.  Come to me and you will experience a resurrection."  No matter our pain or persecution, no matter our challenges and struggles, no matter our fears and anxieties, victory is possible, victory is coming, and victory is ours.  Not even death can separate us from the love of Christ.  God's power makes new life happen both before and after we die.


That is why we sing alleluia on this great day.  On Easter morning, God revealed the biggest surprise of all.  He is not here.  He is risen.  And so will all who belong to him.  And I think Sr. Jean would agree.  This is the greatest victory of all.