He was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, but moved to Wildwood, Missouri when he was young and grew up there. He played baseball for Lafayette High School as a shortstop but gave up the sport after graduation and worked maintenance for Rockwood School District. Eventually though, he returned and played for St. Louis Community College at Meremac, and then for the University of South Alabama. It was there as a senior that he his .414, with a .503 on-base percentage, with 73 runs and 73 RBI’s in only 60 games. Those numbers hearned him a place as a NCAA All American, and he was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2006, where he played in the minor leagues until he was traded to the St. Louis Cadinals in 2008 for outfielder Jim Edmonds. Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past several months, you know who I’m talking about: Cardinals third baseman, David Freese. Freese was always a good player, but there was one event (really one game) that changed him forever – Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. Since then, he’s become a celebrity, appearing on shows like Leno and Letterman, and even the Country Music Awards show. With one game, his life was changed.
Ok, so I’m a bit excited about the Cardinals season getting started, but David Freese isn’t the only person whose life was changed like that. Lets think about St. Peter. He was always a pretty faithful guy in the gospels. He made those professions of faith, saying that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. When others couldn’t take Jesus’ teaching and left, Peter turned to Jesus and said, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” But he had failed. The last we heard of him, he was hiding in shame after denying to know Jesus three times during his suffering and death. But then we meet up with him again today. And by the time we hear him in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, he is a totally different man! One moment he’s hiding in fear of persecution, and the next he’s fearlessly preaching in the streets of Jerusalem, proclaiming that Jesus is raised from the dead! This guy is a fisherman! How many of us could get up and say something like that! Like our favorite third baseman, one event changed his life – his encounter with the Empty Tomb. It had changed everything.
And of course it had! Sure, Jesus had taught some pretty extreme and groundbreaking stuff: his call to extraordinary mercy and forgiveness for those who sin against us, his promise to give grace through a Church that would endure forever, his invitation to an intimate relationship with God as our Father, and most of all, his claim to be the Son of God, forgiving sin and reestablishing that communion between us and God.
But then, evil had it’s way with God’s Son. It had done all it could to break down the courage of Jesus. It had torn his friends from his side, including Peter, and left him alone and broken, both in body and spirit in public execution. It had exhausted its arsenal of hate, injustice, humiliation, and pain. But if that was the end, none of us would be here this morning. I wouldn’t be up here preaching. You wouldn’t be sitting there in those pews. None of the things Jesus had taught would be worth listening to. He would have been another nice guy, a good teacher, who finished last, again. He would have been one more paragraph in a history textbook, or one more lecture in a philosophy class. He would have been one more dreamer whose claims were crushed by the reality of life.
But for Peter, when he peered into that tomb and found it empty, when he saw the burial shroud cast away, when he saw the cloth that had once covered Jesus’ broken and beaten head rolled up and neatly placed aside, he knew that Jesus was risen. He knew that all Jesus had taught was true. He knew that the power of sin and death was beaten, and that God was triumphant. He knew that his life was changed.
Today, we’re invited to ask ourselves how it has changed us. How do we let this great event, this great celebration affect our lives. Today, we are called to be transformed. Probably each of us are going to rejoice in some way today, taking time to celebrate the victory that Christ shares with us – whether it be through meals with the family, taking time to rejoice together here at Mass, having the day off from work (maybe), or rotting your teeth with jellybeans or my favorite, Cadberry cream eggs. But let’s not stop it there. Let us let this great mystery of the resurrection change our lives, like it did Peter’s. Probably most of us tried to make an effort to live in a special way during Lent. Some of us probably gave something up for Lent, or didn’t eat meat on Fridays. And we did those things to try to make ourselves better followers of Christ. So why not try to allow the power of the resurrection to continue that within us, to permeate our lives and help us to continue to live the joy of Easter. Easter will last for 8 more weeks, so maybe rather than giving something up out of penance, we can do something extra to rejoice for those 8 weeks, but for the same purpose as Lent – to make ourselves better followers of Christ, as much in the joyful moments of our lives as when we need him the most.
2000 years after Jesus’ resurrection, we are reminded today of that mystery. It can be easy for us to see it as one event in history that we sort of recall for a day each year. But today is about more than remembering. Today is our encounter with the empty tomb, with the risen Christ. As we approach his glorified and risen body now in the Eucharist, let us open our hearts to him, so that he might transform us as he did those first witnesses of his resurrection. And let us pray together today with the whole Church in saying, “Christ is truly risen, Alleluia!”