Homily for April 22, 2012: 3rd Sunday of Easter — UPDATED with audio

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Three years ago, on the 3rd of July 2009, 33-year-old Scott Fedor was vacationing with his wife at Coldwater Lake in Michigan.   It was a place they’d visited often, and loved.  But the weather had been dry and the lake had receded, had become more shallow. So Scott wasn’t prepared for what happened when he dove off the dock.  He struck the lake floor.  The impact instantly broke his neck.  He was left paralyzed from the shoulders down.

Scott has spent every day since trying to get back some of his regular life.   He’s confined to a wheelchair.  But he is determined that one day he will walk again, and he tries to make his life as normal as possible.  Which is why, early last week, some of his friends helped him fulfill a dream.  They took him to a Bruce Springsteen concert in Cleveland.

Scott Fedor is crazy for Springsteen, knows all his music.  Before he left, he sent an email to Springsteen’s PR manager, telling his story and describing how much he loved one of Springsteen’s songs in particular, “Trapped,” which contains the line: “I know some day I’ll walk out of here again.” Scott wasn’t sure if anything would come of it.

Well, something did.

Tuesday night, Scott went to the concert.  After it was over, someone from Springsteen’s staff came out to find him.  He took him to a service elevator and then backstage.  And there, to his amazement, Bruce Springsteen, the Boss, came out to meet him.  Scott wrote about on his blog this way:

“He walked right up to me and placed his hand around my neck and kissed the side of my head. ‘God bless,’ were the first words one of the greatest rockers of all time said to me. And at that very moment there was not a doubt in my mind of how blessed by God I really was. I was alive.”

Springsteen posed for pictures and chatted for a few minutes.  Then he noticed the holy medal Scott was wearing around his neck – a medal of the Blessed Mother.  Bruce Springsteen was wearing the exact same medal.  He smiled.  “Ah, a Catholic boy,” he said.  And Scott replied, “We’ve got to stick together.”  And then Springsteen leaned in and gave him another kiss on his head and said again, “God bless you.”  And then he was gone.

A priest friend was with Scott that night.  He wrote later that he believed the two men – two “Catholic boys sticking together” – managed to see, in each other, Christ.   It was a moment of unexpected grace.

You never know where or how you will find those moments. We hear about one of them in this Sunday’s gospel – a very real encounter with Christ that left the disciples, in the words of Luke, “incredulous.”

The disciples met the risen Lord themselves in a tangible, physical way — a figure of flesh and bone, of wounds and scars, who even ate with them. “Touch me and see,” he told them.  See, he said, and believe.

This is the last of the resurrection appearances that we’ll be hearing about in the Sunday gospels this Easter season. But whether we realize it or not ,all of them, collectively, point to what we are doing today.

First, there is a communal aspect: after rising from the dead, Jesus appeared to groups of people, always two or more.  Secondly, there was often some form of a meal involved, whether it was the breaking of the bread at Emmaus, eating fish here, or preparing breakfast on the seashore. Thirdly, after these encounters, the disciples gained a deeper understanding of his message, his mission, and the scriptures. Finally, he often came bearing a message: Peace.  In the end, those he met were somehow changed.

If it sounds familiar, it should.  These encounters with Christ foreshadowed what we are doing here and now, in our own celebration – one that is communal, that is a meal, that breaks open God’s word and that leaves us, somehow, changed.

Make no mistake: what happened 2,000 years ago is happening again here. Christ is with us.

The disciples had his presence made real, in flesh and blood.

We have his Real Presence, under the appearance of bread and wine.

When you think about what is happening— what is unfolding here before us and among us—we should be, like the disciples, full of joy.  We should be “incredulous.”  And we should be profoundly humbled.  Christ invites us at every Eucharist to encounter him. To share a meal with him.  To touch him.   To receive him.  To make him a part of us, and to then take him out into the wider world.

Which means that the Resurrection that we celebrate this Easter season wasn’t just a moment in history, something in the past tense.

It is in the present tense.

It goes on.

And, if we choose, it can continue to leave us transformed.

At the concert Tuesday night, Springsteen dedicated one of his songs to Scott Fedor, a folk anthem called “We Are Alive.”  The song begins with the image of a cross – “a cross up on Calvary Hill,” the lyric says – and describes a graveyard, where the souls of the dead live on.   In many ways, it is a song of triumph over death, of resurrection and hope. The refrain says:

“Though we lie alone here in the dark
Our souls will rise to carry the fire and light the spark
To stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart…

We are alive.”

My friends, because of “the cross up on Calvary Hill,” because of Easter morning, we are alive, alive in Christ.

And when we receive the Eucharist, he is alive in us.

Let us never forget that.  And pray to continue what began with the bright flame of the Easter vigil, the flame that still burns here in this candle and within each of us.

Carry the fire.  Light the spark.  Stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart.

Because we are alive.

  • http://themightyambivalentcatholic.blogspot.com/ Steve

    Great homily, Deacon Greg. A wonderful reminder that Jesus’ presence to his apostles 2,000 years ago is completely relevant in 2012, where he is present in our lives through the Eucharist and through what we experience with each other.

    And a beautiful Springsteen story to boot. Prayers for Scott and his family.

  • http://patheos.com Randy

    Excellent! Thanks DK the original

  • Fran Van de Voorde

    In the Montessori Atrium, (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd) we say, ‘we know that Jesus’ death was not the end of the story. He died and rose again and will never die again. And, he chose to remain with us every day in the Eucharist’. Indeed, He is alive in us! Alleluia and Happy Easter!

  • Chris Skokna

    Deacon Greg, what a beautiful story . I was so touch by the story I wanted to donate to Scott at his web site but was put back when I saw the Embryo Stem Cell on the front of his site. I will need to learn more about this before I can donate. I know Adult Stem Cell is ok but I do not think its right to use Embryo stem cells . Please share your thoughts. God bless.

    [Thanks for pointing that out. I did some digging. His website has some postings about advances in stem cell research - both embryonic and adult cells - and makes note of Stem Cell Awareness Day. To avoid any implied endorsement of embryonic stem cell research, I've removed the link to his website. However, I note that his site as set up a "Discretionary Trust Fund" for various specific expenses and equipment, which he lists on the site. You can contribute to that if you so choose. Dcn. G.]

  • helen

    I was very touched by the mention of this young man and went to his website to read more about this story. My conclusion is that he is a deeply religious man with incredible faith in our Lord. He had a beautiful wife who left him after his accident, which devastated him, but he still talks about how his faith has grown even stronger since his accident. Personally, I don’t know if many people would be able to say the same.

    I did a search for stem cells on his website. He doesn’t talk about them often, but I posted one of his journal entries where he talks about stem cells and God. My take away is that he does not endorse embryonic stem cells, per se, rather focuses more on the endgame of a cure for paralysis. This particular journal entry can be found below:

    http://www.scottwfedor.com/sunday-8152010/

    I plan to continue following his story and will be donating. He strikes me as a very remarkable man on foot print it out a lot an even more remarkable spiritual journey.

    Helen

  • helen

    Whoops, “He strikes me as a very remarkable man on an even more remarkable spiritual journey.”

  • Monica

    I am so glad that you decided to blog and to post your homilies. After reading that in some places deacons are not permitted to give homilies, I am also glad that our diocese evidently encourages deacons to give homilies and that I heard a wonderful one today at my parish. Thanks for posting this.

  • Katie

    What church do u preside at??? Would love to hear more homilies like this one!!!! Thank you

  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    You can find me every Sunday here.

    Dcn. G.

  • http://cox.net Patty

    October 8, 2012
    Deacon Greg:
    I just read this homily and wanted you to know that I do find you every Sunday too.
    In fact, since I attend Mass on Saturday evenings, you are the first thing I read on Sunday morning when I turn on my computer. I am always moved by your inspirational homilies and feel that I have been blessed by reading your words of faith, hope and love. I’ll be looking forward to your homily this coming Sunday. God bless you.


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