Sunday, April 20, 2014


   Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord   

Back when I was Fr. Tom’s age—
(for some reason I love saying that!)—
I was assigned down in Lowville.
One summer,
a Canadian priest came from Ottawa
to help us out for awhile.
I clearly recall how Fr. Mark
returned from a bike ride one day
and started asking me questions
about one of the other churches in town.
“It’s out past the grocery store,” he said,
“on the opposite side, right before you go up the hill.”
I knew the spot he was talking about,
but told him I was quite sure
there wasn’t a church anywhere nearby.
And yet he insisted.
So the next time we were driving in that direction,
I asked Fr. Mark to point it out.
“There it is!” he said,
indicating a rather nondescript brown building
which sat a little bit off the road.
And atop the somewhat shabby structure
was a sign that was the source of all the confusion;
it read: Family Redemption Center.
I guess they don't have those in Ontario...

What Fr. Mark found, of course, wasn’t a church at all—
but it has a whole lot more in common with one
than you might at first think!

God the Father sent his Son on a mission—
one with which we North Country folks
are quite familiar in the springtime of the year:
he sent him to walk along the world’s sidewalks and roadways
and to pick up the trash.
After the long winter,
a lot of litter had accumulated:
among the other debris
from the earthly paradise he had created
were people,
tossed aside like any other used up commodity—
human lives wallowing in the ditches of sin
and the depths of the grave.
God knew there would be great reward
in this clean up effort:
not only would it help toward making the place
look more like he originally intended,
but some of that junk was actually worth something:
what had been cast off as rubbish
turns out to actually have enormous value.

And so Jesus goes down into the mud and the muck
because he sees something worth saving down there…
…which is when he effects a most marvelous exchange.
When we bring in empty bottles and cans,
we do so expecting to get paid.
For most of us, that’s “redemption.”
But in it’s original sense,
“to redeem” doesn’t mean to collect your deposit
or get something for practically nothing;
rather, “to redeem” means “to buy back.”
You see, first Jesus picks us up, brings us in, 
and then he pays—and not a measly nickel, either!
St. Peter puts it this way:
            Realize that you were delivered
            from your futile way of life…
            not by any diminishable sum of silver or gold,
            but by Christ’s blood beyond all price:
            the blood of a spotless, unblemished lamb…
            It is through him that you are believers in God,
            the God who raised him from the dead (1 Pt 1:18-21).

The all-pure Son of God gets his hands dirty
that we, in our grime, might be made clean.
Jesus assumes the human condition in all its dysfunction—
going all the way down, so to speak—
that he can then raise us all the way up.
Sin and death are thus traded in
for new and everlasting life.
By his Cross and Resurrection,
Christ has bought us back for God.
As we sang out last night
in the beautiful words of the Easter Proclamation:
            Our birth would have been no gain,
            had we not been redeemed.
            O wonder of your humble care for us!
            O love, O charity beyond all telling,
            to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

On the day of our baptism—
when each one of us was immersed visibly in water
but invisibly into the Paschal Mystery—
we were marked in a quite permanent way,
not with a stamp that reads, “NY 5¢,”
but with a seal which says, “Absolutely Priceless!”
Do we live each day as men and women
of immense dignity and eternal destiny?
Do we find constant joy in this completely unmerited redemption?
Does this Easter faith direct how we treat one another?
Do we help our neighbors to see their own real value?
Because it is for this that Christ died,
for this that Christ rose,
for this that Christ established his Church—
his great “Redemption Center.”

Christ is risen from the dead!
His Cross and Resurrection have redeemed us
and revealed our true worth.
Let us ever live and rejoice in this faith.

Happy Easter!

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