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April 1, 2018 - The Holy Exchange

Easter Sunday - The Resurrection of the Lord - The Mass of Easter Day

Scripture Readings

The story of Arnaud Beltrame has taken the world by storm. He is the 44 year old French Police officer who offered to exchange his life for a hostage in a recent armed struggle in a supermarket in France. After exchanging his life, he helped guide the special forces by leaving an open-line cell phone on a table. The terrorist was finally taken down but not before Arnaud was stabbed in the throat. On his deathbed, Beltrame received two sacraments - the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and the Sacrament of Marriage. His newly-wed wife said of him at his funeral that his heroic sacrifice was "the act of a policeman and the act of a Christian.” I call Arnaud’s act a “holy exchange.” 

While we honor heroes like Arnaud throughout human history, today we are here to remember another man who did the same. His name is Jesus Christ! He too offered his life in exchange for others. Today, we are gathered here in this church because we are the people who have been set free by Christ. We proclaim this each time we gather together for worship. We say, “We proclaim your death O Lord, and profess your resurrection, until you come again!” This we believe is the mystery of our faith! In my three points, I would like to reflect on this acclamation with you.  

1. “We Proclaim Your Death O Lord!” It seems like a strange thing to proclaim - a death. Generally, we approach death with fear, trepidation, and grief. Even a death of Arnaud’s - we proclaim his heroism but we mourn his death. We do not proclaim death from the rooftops. And yet, whenever we enter a Catholic Church we see a death proclaimed. Unlike in the churches of some of our Christian brothers and sisters, we are not content to make a plain cross a centerpiece. We put a crucifix with the corpus and the gruesomeness of a bloody death. And then each time gather for worship, we sing, “We proclaim your death, O Lord.” We proclaim this death, not because death is desirable, but rather, because it was this ‘holy exchange’ that set us free. Whereas Arnaud’s exchange saved one individual Christ’s death saved the entire human race. Christs death saved you and me. And so each time we gather together to worship we say, “We proclaim your death, O Lord!” 

2. “And Profess Your Resurrection!” We are not a people that only proclaim a death! We are a people that profess a resurrection. On the one hand, Christ exchanged his life for ours. On the other hand, he accomplished something that no human hero could have ever accomplished. His death was the death of death. Christ changed our destiny. Instead of fearing death, destruction, hell and damnation, we now look forward to eternal life with God in heaven. Each Easter we remind ourselves that we are a resurrection people. Each Easter, we symbolically capture this in our Easter celebrations. At Easter vigil mass, we bless the new fire. We light the new Easter Candle. We bless the new water. We renew our baptismal promises. Finally, we and sprinkle ourselves with the newly blessed holy water! The life we live on earth is a NEW LIFE. This new life is life in Christ Jesus. This new life IS the life of Jesus. We live not us, but Christ who lives in us! So we come to church each Sunday and at every mass we say, “We proclaim you death, O Lord and profess your resurrection!”   

3. Until You Come Again. By his exchange, Christ has set us free! He has made us a resurrection people!! and now, while we live this life here on earth, we await our final destiny. Thus, when we come together for worship we proclaim that we await our union with Christ “Until he comes again! Until he comes again, we live the New Life. We have put the old away! The old life was a life of judgement and condemnation, of fear and alienation from God, of hatred and indifference, of selfishness and strife, of divisions and dissensions, of sin and slavery to sin. This new life is a life of love and reconciliation, of justice and mercy, or peace and understanding, of unity and freedom, and selflessness and self-sacrifice. Arnaud is an example of living this new life. 

At mass today, once more we will sing, “We proclaim your death O Lord, and profess your resurrection, until you come again!” May this proclamation not ring hollow today! May our lives proclaim his death and resurrection until he comes again!  

- Fr. Satish Joseph