Editor’s note: The following is Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne’s Easter homily.
Our Lenten journey is now over. We have accompanied Jesus through his agony, passion and death. At the Easter Vigil we commemorated his death, but now he lives forever, and holds the keys of death and hell.
Just when those who sought to silence Jesus once and for all thought they had succeeded, when the disciples were bereft and downcast, the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus’ discover when they visited the tomb the astonishing scene. The stone had been rolled away, but his body was not there. Instead, they encounter two angle-like creatures who speak to them: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised.”
When they share this story with the Apostles, they did not accept it. Their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them. But Peter had to see for himself. “He ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.” (Luke 24)
Death cannot hold “the firstborn of all creation, the one in whom all things in heaven and on earth were created.” (Colossians 1:15-16)
Christ is the holder and bestower of life. Thus, as the Son of God, he is the remedy and cure for all that disfigures his creation. Jesus is the salvation of humanity.
Jesus is not just risen in and of himself, nor for his own sake, but he came that we might have life and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
No matter what sins any of us have committed, no matter how dark the circumstances of our lives may be — the risen Jesus is within each person. He may or may not change your life circumstances, but he most certainly will — if you believe in him and call upon him — help you to live the life that is yours in full freedom and love.
Surely God who created the universe, who saw the misery of the human family that had fallen into sin, who sent his only Son to die on a cross for us — and raised him from the dead — has the power to raise up the human family from our situation today.
Salvation history — which was heard again at the Easter Vigil in the extended Liturgy of the Word — teaches every generation a simple message: When we walk with God, we live in a garden, where all is well ordered and harmonious. But, when we seek to take life into our own hands, to make life in our image; when we distort the ways of God to become “our ways” — the garden quickly becomes a place of discord and death.
Saint Paul teaches in Galatians that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Life will always present us with disappointments and challenges. Every life has its share a difficulty and darkness. But when we follow the example of the women in the Gospel or even of Saint Peter who ran to the tomb, we discover the risen Jesus who is always our light and peace, our joy and hope any time our life seems to be in disarray.
Ultimately, our walk with Jesus is about learning his way of love. Walking in the garden, or even helping to restore our world to a more garden-like state, does have an order to it, the natural order of God. Jesus helps us discover this order — the order of a consuming fire of love — and helps us to use our human freedom precisely as he did — answering the call of God’s love with love.
“Our God who is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) created us in his love, drew us forth from love, and redeemed us by love. As the risen Jesus gave a new purpose and courage to the Apostles, so even today, he is our light. The risen Jesus lives in you. Give in to him. Follow him. Love and serve him, for he is the way to inherit the promise of life with God for all eternity.
The writer is Archbishop of Anchorage.