Archbishop Raymond L. Burke preached the following homily at a Mass on Easter Sunday, March 23, 2008, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and for ever. Amen.
Today, we celebrate with the deepest possible joy our life in Christ in the Church. We mystically return to the baptismal font at which we first came to life in Christ in His holy Church. We mystically return to the church in which our forehead was anointed with the sacred Chrism in the sacrament of Confirmation, strengthening and increasing the life of the Holy Spirit within us, and sealing indelibly our identity as members of the Church, true sons and daughters of God, temples of His Holy Spirit. And, finally, we mystically return to what must always be the happiest day in our lives, the day on which we made our first Holy Communion, receiving the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ into our very being, for the first time, as the heavenly food which both sustains us along the way of our earthly pilgrimage and is the pledge of the final destiny of our pilgrimage: the heavenly Jerusalem.
Today, we celebrate the great mystery of God the Father's love in our lives, His love which reached its fullest expression in the sending of Christ, His only-begotten Son, to us as our true brother; in Christ's taking upon Himself all of our sins by His suffering and dying, and in Christ's winning for us, in our human nature, the victory over sin and death, the victory of life without end, by His rising from the dead. With the apostle John, we stand before the empty tomb of the redeemer, and we believe the truth to which it and so many other signs infallibly point. Dom Prosper Guéranger, in his meditation on the visit of the apostles Peter and John to the empty tomb, helps us to reflect upon the great mystery we celebrate today, and all that it means for our daily living:
This glorious, happy morning has come, O Jesus! and great indeed is our gladness at seeing that this same sepulchre, whither we followed Thee with aching hearts, is now but the trophy of Thy victory! Thy precious wounds are healed! It was we that caused them; permit us to kiss them. Thou are now living, more glorious than ever, and immortal. And because we resolved to die to our sins, when Thou wast dying in order to expiate them, Thou willest that we, too, should live eternally with thee; that Thy victory over death be ours; that death should be for us, as it was for Thee, a mere passage to immortality, and should one day give back, uninjured and glorified, these bodies which are to be lent for a while to the tomb. Glory, then, and honor, and love, be to Thee, O Jesus! Who didst deign not only to die, but to rise again for us! (Dom Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, Vol. 7–Paschal Time, Book I, tr. Dom Laurence Shepherd, O.S.B., Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 2000, p. 147 indeed, Christ rose from the dead to dwell with us always and to bring us, body and soul, to the glory which is now His at the right hand of the Father.
Through the Easter sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist, we experience personally and directly the abiding presence of our Risen Lord with us, the immeasurable and unceasing love of God for us in His only-begotten Son. We also experience personally and directly the mystery of God's love of us in the sacrament of Penance, in which we regularly meet Christ to confess our sins and to receive absolution. In the sacrament of Penance, Christ renews and restores the life of the Holy Spirit, which we have received in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, and He disposes our minds and hearts to receive His body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Holy Eucharist. Having listened to the preaching of Saint Peter to the household of the centurion Cornelius at Caesarea, we understand, from our own life in the Church, the meaning of his words: Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, "is the one appointed by God to judge the living and the dead," the one to whom "all the prophets bear witness." Through faith in Him, we have received and we receive "forgiveness of sins through His name" (Reading I).
By the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we celebrate today, Christ has brought us to life in Himself, in His Mystical Body, the Church; and He has poured out upon us, from His glorious pierced heart, the gift of His spirit, so that He might live in us throughout the days of our earthly pilgrimage, with our eyes and hearts ever fixed on our final destiny with Him, in the company of the angels and all the saints. Today, we rejoice, in the truth that "[our] life is hidden with Christ in God," through the sacraments, and we lift up our thoughts and affections to Christ, in order to live more deeply His Easter life within us (Reading II).
But what is living "with Christ in God," if not the piercing, the opening, of our own hearts, so that the love of Christ may pour forth as "living water" for all whom we meet, especially our brothers and sisters who are in most need (John 7:38)? Our mystical return, today, to our baptism, confirmation and First Holy Communion does not turn us inward, as if our deeply personal relationship with Christ could somehow exclude others. As we reflect today upon our living communion with Christ risen, we experience most strongly the dynamism of His life and love within us, drawing us outward in love of our neighbor. Pope Benedict XVI expressed succinctly and powerfully the reality of our life "hidden with Christ in God" when he declared: "Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom He gives Himself" (Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus caritas est, "On Christian Love," December 25, 2005, n. 14).
Recognizing the Risen Christ in our midst, above all, in the sacraments, we are drawn, with Him, to love those whom the world considers our "least brethren": the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned, and all those who long for a sign of God's mercy and love in their lives. Professing our faith in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are reminded of the question raised to the Heavenly King, in the Parable of Last Judgment, by both the righteous and the condemned. Having heard the King declare their judgment, they wondered about when they had seen their Lord 'hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison" (Matthew 25:44; cf. Matthew 25:37-39). The response of the Heavenly King, the response of our Risen Lord, makes clear the dynamic mandate of our life with Him in God: "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me....Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me" (Matthew 25:40, 45).
Our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice and our daily prayer united to our communion with our Eucharistic King are not foreign to our acts of charity. They are, in fact, the first and greatest acts of love for our brothers and sisters in need. The example of our Lord Himself and of all the saints teach us that our communion with Him is the source of every genuine act of love of neighbor. Referring to the heroic sanctity of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Pope Benedict XVI taught us:
Prayer, as a means of drawing ever new strength from Christ, is concretely and urgently needed. People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone. Piety does not undermine the struggle against the poverty of our neighbors, however extreme. In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbor but is in fact the inexhaustible source of that service (Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus caritas est, "On Christian Love," December 25, 2005, n. 36).
Prayer and the sacramental life are not only not foreign to our charity which is so urgently needed in the world. They are the one and only true source of Christlike charity which is pure and selfless.
As we now lift up our hearts to the glorious pierced heart of our Risen Lord in the Eucharistic sacrifice, let us lift up all our brothers and sisters who are suffering in any way: our innocent and defenseless brothers and sisters whose lives are threatened in the very first stages of their development; our brothers and sisters who have grown weak under the burden of special needs, serious illness, or advanced years; our brothers and sisters who are homeless and without food and drink; our brothers and sisters who are the victims of war and civil strife, and those who give their lives for the sake of peace in our local communities and among the nations of the world; our immigrant brothers and sisters who have come to us, seeking a better life for themselves and their families; our brothers and sisters who are in prison, especially those who have been condemned to death; our brothers and sisters who do not practice the faith or are held captive by habits of sin; in short, all of our brothers and sisters who need so much to know personally and directly the love of God for them in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead for us all. Through our prayer and, above all, our participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice, let us draw their hearts to the heart of Jesus, pierced by the soldier's spear on Calvary and now glorious in heaven, remaining always open to receive us, to give us healing, strength, joy, and peace.
Returning mystically to our encounter with Christ in the Easter sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist, let us recognize Him in our midst, offering anew the sacrifice of Calvary to sustain us during the days of our earthly pilgrimage and to bring us safely home to Him who is, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Let us lift up our hearts to His glorious pierced heart; let our hearts rest always in His Sacred Heart; and let us bring from His royal heart the "living water" of His divine love for all our brothers and sisters (John 7:38).
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection, have mercy on us.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us.
Saint Louis of France, pray for us.
Saint Vincent de Paul, pray for us.
Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, pray for us.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.