Sunday Sermon for April 9, 2023, the Solemnity of Easter, Year A
Readings: Acts: 10:34a, 37-43; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9
In the second reading today, St. Paul speaks of our lives being hidden with Christ in God. There is a twofold meaning in this. First, we notice that so much of Who our Lord is and what He did in His life on earth was hidden from the eyes of the people. Even as we celebrate the single greatest event in human history, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, it was in many ways hidden. St. Peter speaks of that fact in the first reading when he says that our Lord appeared, “not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance.”
We see something similar in the Gospel where St. John tells us of his own moment of deeper conversion. St. Mary Magdalene had been at the tomb of our Lord but the tomb was open and He was gone. St. Peter and St. John, acting on the information received from St. Mary Magdalene, ran to the tomb and found the burial cloths, but our Lord was not there. He had risen from the dead! The greatest event in human history was witnessed by no one.
So, from the time of the Incarnation and the birth of our Lord, throughout His life and His public ministry, even to His passion, death, and resurrection, His divinity was hidden from the sight of the people. All this was because people had to make an act of faith, not based on what they saw, but on a much deeper level.
This brings us to the second point of being hidden in Christ. Once that act of faith is made and we are baptized, we are incorporated into the Person of our Lord, Jesus Christ. No one can see that we are now children of God, members of Jesus Christ, and partakers in the divine nature. All these things are true, but what is most astounding is that they are not only hidden from others, but they are also hidden from us!
This is the second meaning. The truth of who we are is hidden even from our own self. The resurrected and glorified Lord, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit dwells within us, but that, too, is hidden from us. The reason for all this hiddenness is that we must first make an act of faith in what we know to be true because God has revealed it, but we cannot perceive it with our senses. Then, acting on this faith, we must strive to conform ourselves to these truths so they become manifest in us.
This is the point St. Paul is making when he tells us to seek what is above, not what is of earth. If you are in Christ, and you are, then you are seated at God’s right hand in Christ Jesus. St. Paul says we have died, because we are in Christ Who died and is resurrected. Since these things are true and they are happening right now within us, if we can keep our focus on these truths, it will change our lives in a most wonderful way. Our union with Jesus will grow and develop and we will live as citizens of Heaven, as St. Paul speaks about in his Letter to the Philippians.
Perhaps at this point in our lives we are still like Peter and John before they went to the tomb. They had heard everything our Lord said, they even believed what He said, but they did not fully understand. Once they understood, then their faith went to an entirely new level and their lives were changed. Externally, everything still looked the same, but internally they were transformed.
This interior transformation cannot remain hidden. It becomes evident to the individual and, once these truths we have heard so many times are no longer just intellectual concepts, but real elements of who we are that are embraced and lived, a whole new world opens to us. More and more is revealed within our own self and we grow more perfectly into the likeness of our Lord.
When this happens, although it remains hidden from everyone else, we will not be able to keep it hidden within ourselves. Like St. Peter said in the first reading, we will be giving testimony to our Lord. It may be that you will not be commissioned to preach, but all of us need to bear witness by our manner of life. The love of God should radiate from within us. That will be far more effective in touching people that any words we can speak. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead cannot just be an intellectual truth that we hold at an arm’s distance, but a reality hidden within us that transforms our lives and radiates Christ!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.