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Sunday, April 4th, 2021

‘Quæ sursum sapite’: a Sermon for Easter Sunday

Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth (Colossians 3, 2).

There are a thousand and one things that make it very difficult to live one’s life as a Catholic in our times; no one here would dispute that. And whether someone is Catholic or not, human life is nevertheless filled with difficulty, as it has been since the day our first parents sinned. How often does man experience the sense of being imprisoned by some difficulty; afflicted with a sense of fear or futility; brought to the point where happiness and peace seem impossible? Often, dear friends; only too often. 

But on account of today, none of that needs to be the whole story. You and I have warrant to rejoice today.

It is true that the good God might have repaired the human race in many ways; but the Cross and the empty sepulcher was what he chose. Last night at the solemn vigil, we had the lesson from Genesis 22, wherein Abraham is asked to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. You know how it goes. Isaac is just about to receive the blow from Abraham’s knife, when God’s angel stops him: stops him because the test of obedience was accomplished. Isaac goes free, and a ram is sacrificed in his place.—But when Jesus Christ went up the mountain to be sacrificed, there was no ram to take his place; he submits and is sacrificed.

But today finds us rejoicing because the Passion was not for nothing; God makes himself the repairing sacrifice for us. Imagine! ‘To ransom a slave, you gave away your son,’ as we sang last evening. Imagine. It is as Cardinal Newman put it:

The price he paid was nothing short of the whole treasure of His blood, poured forth to the last drop from His veins and sacred heart. He shed his whole life for us; He left Himself empty of His all. He left His throne on high; He gave up His home on earth; He parted with His Mother, He gave His strength and His toil, He gave His body and soul, He offered up His passion, His crucifixion, and His death that man should be bought for nothing.[1] 

No, dear friends, God has done the work of setting all things right. Today we begin to see that again. 

Which is why St Paul can tell us to think, not of the things of earth, but of the things that are above. Today we are reminded to do that; in our seemingly impossible times, we are reminded to do that. Before Easter, there was no thinking about the things above, for we had no access to them. But after Easter, now we can: the things above are wide open to us. All that afflicts mankind—both from within himself, and from without—does not have the last word.

If you wanted to summarize the mystery of Easter in one word, that word is victory. And when you win, the only thing left to be done is to rejoice in it.

Be reminded, dear friends, of the things above; of all the content and promise of our Catholic faith. And when you leave Holy Mass today, leave behind something of your care and worry; something of your preoccupation and fear; leave something behind of your sins and anything that keeps you from God. You must do this. The happy logic of the day demands it. 

 


[1] Discourse 15, On the Divine Attributes.

{Art Credit: detail, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770), The Sacrifice of Isaac (1724-1729); Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine}

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