Homily for Easter – 2015 Fr. Jim Schmitmeyer
Immaculate Conception Parish, Vega, Texas
St. Hyacinth Parish, Amarillo, Texas
How many of you have a closet full of clothes at home? Most of us do. And most of us take that closet of clothes for granted.
A closet of clothes might seem an odd place to look for a message from God. But, if you look closely at the story of Jesus’ passion, his death and his resurrection, it’s a bit like staring into a closet full of clothes. Ever notice many garments, cloth, cloaks and veils get mentioned in the telling of Jesus’ last days on earth?
Let me list a few:
the towel that Jesus tied around his waist to dry the feet of his disciples on the night before his trial and execution
the tunic pulled off a young man fleeing the scene of Jesus’ arrest
the red cloak thrown across his bare back, scarred with the welts and the blood from a soldier’s whip
the veil that a woman named Veronica used to wipe his face on the way to Golgotha
the seamless garment on which the soldiers toss their dice, the curtain in the Temple ripped from top to bottom at the moment that he died…
the shroud in which he was buried.
These references to woven cloth are recorded in the Word of God for a reason: they have been written down to help us believe; to help us believe—as the apostle John believed— when he found himself at the empty tomb on Easter morning.
When Simon Peter arrived…
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
Years ago, I heard a story about a woman recently widowed. She and her husband had been married nearly half a century. When her husband died, the woman grieved deeply for a long time. And during that time, the only way she could fall asleep at night was to go to the closet in the bedroom, wrap herself in his bath robe and go back to bed.
Every think that a terrycloth bath robe as a channel of God’s grace? Makes me think about the power of love sewn into another robe, the one mentioned in the story of the Prodigal Son.
We know the parable well: An arrogant son tells his old man to drop dead (I want my inheritance. Now!). So the boy leaves home and lives large. He runs through his money and loses his job and comes trudging home day because he’s tired of feeding pigs.
But the boy’s father never stopped hoping son would come home. So, on the day he catches sight of him off in the distance, the father runs to him (as though he himself were a child!). And when he reaches his boy, he tells the servants, to bring a robe for his back, a ring for his finger and shoes for his feet.
Why a ring for his finger? So folks would look at the ring and ignore the calluses, I suppose. As well as the grease beneath the fingernails and the fact that the hand is swollen and the knuckles are raw from a fight in some parking lot behind some bar.
And the father probably called for a pair of shoes because his son was barefoot and his feet were bleeding? And the robe. Why the robe?
If you ask me, it was because the kid was bareback field worker and dirty and stunk like a pig and so skinny you count his ribs.
An amazing story. Instead of dressing down the kid, the father dresses him up! Why the “dressing up?” Maybe because, just a few chapters earlier in the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus himself did the very same thing.
It happened in the country of Gerasenes. An incident that involved a crazy man with mangy hair, scars on his wrists and cuts on his arm because he loathed himself and hurled himself against the rocks. The people of the town tried to restrain him to keep him from doing it but the brute was too strong for the chains and the cuffs, so he took to living in the caves outside the town, among the tombs. Naked, without a stitch of clothes. Screaming night and day like a coyote caught in a trap.
The people warned Jesus, “Don’t go that way. Don’t take that road. That man is dangerous.” So, of course, that’s exactly where Jesus headed.
At the end of the day, when the people of that place went to see the outcome, they found the man cured of his demons. He was calm and sitting next to the Lord and the two of them were having a conversation. And you know what else? The man was clothed. He was cleaned up…and clothed. Completely clothed.
In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we read, “I rejoice greatly in the LORD, for He has clothed me with the garment of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness.”
How has the Lord clothed you?
On the day that my mother died, I remember my sisters going to the closet in her bedroom to choose the dress in which she would be buried. Is that the reason the Lord left his burial garments at the tomb? That we might, in a figurative sense, borrow them on the day that we die? Comforting ourselves with the notion that, in Christ, we all shall sleep in peace?
I don’t think so. Because Christ is alive. And, in him we too are alive. Not asleep, but alive. Alive forever.
Christ left those burial clothes behind because didn’t need he them! His Body—resurrected—shines with a glory that you and I cannot begin to comprehend.
The body of Jesus, the Son of God, stripped naked and nailed to a cross so that you and I might be stripped of the filthy rags of homelessness and given the uniform of a victorious team; the outfit of an Olympic athlete holding high a trophy before a stadium packed with thousands of saints and angels singing Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest.
Friends, team mates, we wear the uniform of Christ. Christ, the wrestler who broke Satan’s head-lock on humanity and released us from choke-hold of sin and brutality. Christ, weight-lifter who broke the chains of death and shoved aside the rock at the entrance of the tomb.
Christ, whose number appears on the jerseys we wear. Christ, whose name we chant in the assembly of the Church. Christ, who ditched the funeral garments and clothed himself in robe of life…a glorified life.
The life that lives within the heart of all of us here today. Believers who stand at the mouth of the cave, gaping at clothes left behind…gazing with hope at the glory that lies ahead.
(c) Rev. Jim Schmitmeyer