Homily: Will They Know We Are Christians?

April 18, 2017 – Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.” (John 20:11-18)

Using these same readings, I delivered the following homily at a school Mass at Bishop Chatard High School, Indianapolis in 2016:

Happy Easter! I am able to say “Happy Easter” because Easter does not end with Easter Sunday. It begins on Easter Sunday and lasts for 50 days, so we have just begun the Easter season.

Lent was about reflecting on our lives, doing our best to get into a right relationship with God, so that we can fully embrace the gift of faith given to us on Easter Sunday.

Our Christian faith comes into focus over the course of three days. Our entire faith is based on the Passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The truth of our faith comes to life:

  • Jesus was both human and divine.
  • He had to suffer and die.
  • His suffering and death was for us – to free us from our sins.
  • Jesus rose from the dead in order to bring us hope for our own salvation.
  • We are now challenged to share the message of Jesus Christ.

These truths make up our Christian faith.

Jesus has done His part. Now we must do ours – we must share the message of Jesus Christ in our daily lives. In doing so we live out the purpose of the Easter season. We acknowledge the joy of our faith, the gift we have been given.

That is why in today’s Gospel we heard Jesus say to Mary Magdalene, “Stop holding on to me.”

That seems like an odd thing to say to someone who is mourning the death of her friend. However, He was telling her that it was not His death that was most important, but rising from the dead and bringing us to new life.

He was telling her, “Don’t be sad; be joyful! I have done what I set out to do. I have given you the gift of faith. Share the Good News!”

He instructed Mary Magdalene, “Go to my brothers and tell them, I have seen the Lord!”

That is our challenge as well. We are called to share the Good News, to share the gift of our faith by how we live our lives.

What does that look like? I want to share one incredible story of faith.

**********

(Refer to the icon of the martyred Coptic Christians being projected on the screen)

Coptic Christians

This is a newly released icon, depicting 21 martyrs.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is the largest church in the Middle East. Last year, 21 Coptic Christian migrant workers from Egypt were beheaded by ISIS while working in Libya. After the beheadings, the Coptic Church released the names of those who were killed, but there were only 20 names.

It was later learned that the 21st martyr was a non-Christian from Chad. He saw the immense faith of the others, and when the terrorists asked him if he rejected Jesus, he reportedly said, “I want their God to be my God”, knowing that he would be killed. He was so moved by the faith of the others, that he immediately embraced that same faith.

**********

Are we living our life that way? When people see how we live our lives, do they say, “I want their God to be my God”? Think about that.

If Jesus sat on your shoulder and watched you for an entire day, students and adults alike – what would He know about your faith at the end of the day?

Did we spend time judging and labeling others? Did we engage in conflict? Did we taunt or bully? Did we choose language that demeans others?

That doesn’t go on here, right? Unfortunately, on some days it does. I know because people who have been hurt by others come to me. They go home that day saddened by the words and actions of others. That is how they experienced Jesus Christ that day.

However, I am happy to say that on most days I see just the opposite. I see people who are filled with joy because of how someone has treated them. They have been affirmed and lifted up. They go home that day truly knowing Jesus Christ through the words and actions of others.

Our closing song today will be, They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love. Listen to the words as you sing them. Know that what you do and say matters. You live out your Christian faith by how you live your life.

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