Preaching Your Resurrection
How to share your kerygma of the Faith with the faithful
In his book “Living Buddha, Living Christ” (Riverhead, $22), Thich Nhat Hanh remarks to a visiting Christian: “You say you are people of the Resurrection. Show me your resurrection.”
My first reaction upon reading this was that this is not a one-and-only event in my life. He would have to follow me and see all of the little resurrections to see my true identity as a follower of Jesus Christ. Yet in truth, over the years, I have seen that there have been a few, key liminal moments that I always go back to in my prayer and vocation talks. Some are bigger than others, but the realization of my life purpose and the ultimate vocation of all souls helps me to see that all of these coming-to-life and awareness moments are a participation in the knowledge of, and faith in, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Before seminary, I worked as a campus minister for 10 years at a Catholic high school. One of my favorite programs was the weekend-long kairos retreat, based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Trying to compress the four weeks of Ignatius’s plan into a four-day retreat for students, it was designed to provide a liminal experience for retreatants as to what life was about and what they really need in that life. Later, small group reflections through the school year kept recalling the retreat and helped in the ongoing struggles of growing up.
Toward the end of the Exercises in Week 4 — or Day 4 for the kairos retreat — there is a meditation on the resurrection of Jesus and a witness talk designed around a personal experience of resurrection. In planning the retreat with the team, I would always describe this talk as about a time when you came back to life.
This Is the Moment
Think about the song “Amazing Grace”: “I once was lost, but now I’m found, / was blind but now I see.” Almost all witness talks in my experience consist of a story where things were bad, they turned to Jesus, and now things are better. Most of them would waffle on that exact moment of change, or “turning to Jesus.”
In our evaluations and sharing, most of the time was spent helping them craft a way of getting the detail right about this moment, this key piece of their resurrection. This moment could be seen as the kerygma of the retreat: the kairos moment, the pregnant moment. This is the moment where the past and present meet, where heaven and earth come together.
This moment is difficult to explain for any of us. We can take comfort in that it was hard to explain for the apostles as well. No one was present to actually witness the resurrection of Jesus, but the realization of the Resurrection is what changed their lives forever. The whole New Testament stands as a record of their experience, but even for them it was not a once-and-for-all event. They still had their doubts (cf. Mt 28:17) but were willing to have a “continuous” relationship in prayer with Christ (Lk 24:53).
Even after the Resurrection, seeing the empty tomb (cf. Lk 24:12) and witnessing the miraculous appearances, Peter still needed time and forgiveness to fully live out his own resurrected existence (Jn 21:15-17). We often see these three questions as absolution for his three denials (Jn 18). Another way is to look at the symbolic meaning of the number “three.” Like the Trinity, it is the infinite number. As Christ fell and got up again three times in the traditional Stations of the Cross, so Peter needed to feel forgiveness and rise up again throughout his life, an infinity of resurrections.
The sacrifice of the Mass is not a one-and-done moment either. Though we have the “one” sacrifice (Greek: hapax; cf. Heb 6:4; 9:7, 26-28; 10:2; 12:26-27), it is also and more truly a “once and for all” sacrifice (Greek: ephapax; cf. Heb 7:27; 9:12; 10:10).
In the Mass, the consecration is this kairos moment, where heaven and earth join. This “breaking of the bread” was the kairos moment when the disciples on the road to Emmaus recognized Jesus for who he truly is (cf. Lk 24:35). The angels and saints in heaven are invoked to give witness, and we participate in the one eternal sacrifice of the crucified and ascended Savior. St. Ambrose and St. John Chrysostom both make this point in commenting on Hebrews when they call this sacrifice of the Mass anamnesis. As then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said in “The Spirit of the Liturgy” (Ignatius, $16.96), “The ephapax (‘once for all’) is bound up with the aionios (‘everlasting’).”
Sharing Graced Moments
With this theology and years of seminary and prayer, each homilist should be able to focus on their own resurrection experience and unpack it for a congregation to understand. As you develop your Easter homily, take time to meditate on all of your own resurrection moments: the time you realized the purpose of life on earth, the first inkling of being a priest, the reaffirmations of this vocation throughout the time of initial discernment and at ordination, and the peak moments of ministry since then. For these moments keep happening to us.
We are privileged to participate not only in the kairos/Resurrection reality at Mass, but also in the daily events of our parishioners’ lives. Through our training we have the ability now to share how these graced moments affect life. This can be the kerygma of your Easter homily, by sharing the kerygma of the Faith and how it became the ongoing kerygma in your life.
FATHER SCOTT KOPP is the director of vocations and seminarians for the Diocese of Youngstown and the pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Vienna, Ohio.
The Condition of Christ’s Risen Humanity
“By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his passion. Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm. For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.
“Christ’s Resurrection was not a return to earthly life, as was the case with the raisings from the dead that he had performed before Easter: Jairus’ daughter, the young man of Naim, Lazarus. These actions were miraculous events, but the persons miraculously raised returned by Jesus’ power to ordinary earthly life. At some particular moment they would die again. Christ’s Resurrection is essentially different. In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus’ Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is ‘the man of heaven.’”
— Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 645-646