While I was studying in Rome, I met a priest who shared with me a powerful Easter story. I would like to share it with you this morning. In this priest’s diocese there was an older priest whose name was Jim. Father Jim was known throughout the diocese as the best preacher around. When there was a Forty Hours or some special occasion it was very likely that they would ask Jim to preach. His homilies were intelligent, well- crafted and relevant to people’s lives. Even other priests, when they had a free weekend, would worship at Jim’s parish just to see what he had to say. When Jim retired, he continued to preside and preach into his eighties. But then he suffered a serious stroke. He fought his way back, but the stroke left him partially paralyzed, and he could only speak with the greatest difficulty. It was clear that his preaching days were over.
It also happened that Jim had a close friend who was a fellow priest named Tom. The two of them were in seminary together, they served together, and they vacationed together. They had an agreement that whoever lived longer would preach at the other man’s funeral. In fact, the whole diocese knew of this agreement because they kept teasing one another saying. “I’m going first, so you better be ready.” Tom went first. Because Jim was now incapacitated, there was a considerable discussion over who his replacement would be. But when people showed up for Tom’s funeral, word started to spread that the homily would be given by Father Jim. That’s impossible people said. He simply can’t do it. But sure enough after the gospel, Jim stood up and made his way with his cane over to a temporary podium that was placed at the steps of the sanctuary. When he arrived at the microphone, there was a long pause. Then with in a voice that was both trembling and distinct, he said, “Jesus is my Lord. Jesus is power.” Then he pointed to the casket. “Jesus is Tom’s Lord. Jesus is resurrection.” Then he turned and went back to his seat.
If someone walked in from the street into this funeral and heard Jim’s words, they would have concluded that they were peculiar and ineffective. But for everyone in the church that day who knew the story of these two men, the story of their friendship and their faith, it was a homily they would never forget. Because in that church, in the presence of death, a homilist who could not speak proclaimed victory. In that church resurrection was not a word but a tangible reality, because a great preacher whose career was finished gave the best homily of his life.
You and I need to experience Jesus’ resurrection as a tangible reality. We need to know that the power of Jesus is greater than any challenge that life places before us. It is greater than a friend who rejects us, a jerk who bullies us, or family members who do not understand us. It is greater than a failure at work, the collapse of a marriage, or a financial disaster. It is greater than a physical stroke, an emotional depression, or the fear of death. For whenever Jesus’ power is not a word, but something that we can feel and touch, there is always life.
So the best homily I can give you this Easter morning is simply this: “Jesus is your Lord. Jesus is resurrection.”