By Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong
(St. Anne Catholic Church - Columbus, GA)
EASTER SUNDAY - Year B - (2009)
Acts 10:34, 38-42 Colossians 3:1-4 John 20:1-18
First of all, Happy and Blessed Easter to you and to your families. For those visiting today, my name is Fr. Martino. I have been a priest for 5 years and this is my first Easter at Saint Anne! - And it is a joy to wish Easter Blessings on all of you.
In this past week I have spent a lot of time meditating about life and death! And today, Easter Sunday - The day Our Lord Jesus Christ rose from death - to conquer the darkness of sin, I will talk about death! That is right, you heard it right! I will talk about death! Because, if we do not die with Christ we will not rise with Christ!
There are a few things we see, touch, smell and talk about but we do not use! And when we use, we do not see, touch, smell or talk about them! What are they? - The coffin and the hearse! Isn't that right, when we use them, we do not know!!! And there is one thing in life we don't want to talk about, "death - our own death." Even though we know death is a must! No one can avoid it! But we try our best to avoid talking about it! I think we are afraid of death because we know we are not ready for it! By ready, I meant we are not "as good as God intended us to be!" So wemptytoom1.jpge push it as far away as we can! But then one day we will have to face it! Young or old, healthy or sick, rich or poor. We all will die!
If you drive down Macon road, you will see a big billboard from one of the funeral homes saying, "Do not be buried in debt - prepare your funeral today!" Wow, that my dear friends, is what Easter is all about! Jesus does not want us to die and be buried in debt - So He paid all of our debts!
You might know that as an ordained priest, in some way I have responsibility before God for the salvation of each baptized person and you know I take that responsibility very seriously. To seek the lost sheep, I would even go to the taverns. (J/K you know I do not drink!)
Well, brothers and sisters, as we celebrate Easter 2009, I want you to know that I am getting a group together who want to prepare for our death so that we can go to heaven - right now. And I want you to be part of that group because eternal life begins now.
Now, I do not want you to get too far ahead, so let's get back to the present! As I have said, many of us do not want to talk about death because we know we have failed God many times! Because we have not lived up to His expectation for us. And maybe because the burden of life weighs heavily upon us! So my dear friends, if you feel burdened today, I ask you to think about these words of Pope John Paul the Great: "We are not the sum of our failures. We are the sum of the Father's love for us - and our real capacity is to become the image of his Son Jesus." What a difference it would make if we defined ourselves by God's love - not by our failures! And you all know how much God loves us! He gave us his only Son! (John 3:16) and His Son died to pay our debts to sin!
Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. By prayers and sacraments, He wants us to have His life now. Do not let your failings define who you are. God has a plan, a purpose for you. It may involve some deprivations and disappointments, but whatever the cost, it will be worth it. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Where He is, He wants you to be. Eternal life begins now. "I am the Resurrection and the Life." No one comes to the Father except through Jesus.
One day while Mitch was at the horse track, placing bets and losing everything, Mitch noticed a priest who stepped out onto the track and blessed the forehead of one of the horses lining up for the 4th race. Lo and behold, that horse - a very long shot - won the race.
Before the next race, as the horses began lining up, Mitch watched with interest as the old priest step onto the track. Sure enough, as the 5th race horses came to the starting gate the priest made a blessing on the forehead of one of the horses. Mitch made a beeline for a betting window and placed a small bet on the horse. Again, even though it was another long shot, the horse the priest had blessed won the race. Mitch collected his winnings, and anxiously waited to see which horse the priest would bless for the 6th race. The priest again blessed a horse. Mitch bet big on it, and it won. Mitch was elated. As the races continued the priest kept blessing long shot horses, and each one ended up coming in first.
By and by, Mitch was pulling in some serious money. By the last race, he knew his wildest dreams were going to come true. He made a quick dash to the ATM, withdrew all his savings, and awaited the priest's blessing that would tell him which horse to bet on. True to his pattern, the priest stepped onto the track for the last race and blessed the forehead of an old nag that was the longest shot of the day. Mitch also observed the priest blessing the eyes, ears, and hooves of the old nag.
Mitch knew he had a winner and bet every cent he owned on the old nag. He then watched dumbfounded as the old nag come in dead last. Mitch, in a state of shock, made his way down to the track area where the priest was.
Confronting the old priest he demanded, "Father what happened? All day long you blessed horses and they all won. Then in the last race, the horse you blessed lost by a Kentucky mile. Now, thanks to you - Father - I've lost every cent of my savings - all of it!" The priest nodded wisely and with sympathy. "Son," he said, "that's the problem with you Non-Christians, you can't tell the difference between a simple blessing and . . . the last rites."
My dear friends, now you cannot say you don't know the different between eternal damnation and heaven anymore - you can only say you don't care; because I have just told you! Don't die buried in the debt of sins - Prepare your eternal life now! Because Alleluia, He has risen! Alleluia!
Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong