Sunday, April 16, 2017

April 16, 2017
Easter Sunday
Happy Easter everyone. I’m quite certain that after all the additional activities that we’ve had to participate in this morning some of you are probably hoping that I will be short winded instead of my usual long-winded. Well I’m not going to tell you you’re just going to have to sit on the cushions and get your “tusshies” comfortable. 
But seriously, it is a glorious day it should be. The remembrance of the resurrection of our Lord and the salvation that that means to us is a great day indeed. What we experienced this morning is almost like a pilgrimage of sorts, and rightly so. Our spiritual centers need to be mystically recharged each year and this is the perfect day to do it.
There is a deeply traditional pilgrimage almost all Americans feel pulled to make at least once in their lives - to America's new heartland, Disneyland or Disney World.As most of you know I tend to be somewhat of a Disney fanatic, so let’s explore today a little bit with a backdrop from Disney.

Disney's role in America's modern mythology is absolutely critical, even central. Increasingly the world sees Disney as the real symbol of America. Forget the Statue of Liberty, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights - America means Mickey Mouse. The recreational mecca called Disney World has now supplanted America's historical mecca called Washington, D.C., as the nation's most popular tourist site. Some now argue that Disneyland/World is the spirit of America, the nation's key sacred space, the bearer of the images that carry American meaning and mission.

Disney's mission statement is simple and straightforward: "Provide People Happiness." In its quest to meet this goal, Disney focuses all its energies in the realm of fantasy - convincing the whole country that to find happiness involves escaping reality.

When you visit the Disneyland, its central image is the Castle of Sleeping Beauty. Its graceful, soaring storybook towers and turrets preside over the rest of the theme park below. Yet unlike all the other attractions in this wonderland it is only a hollow shell - void of content. Except for a few novelty shops along the walkway that cuts through it, and winding passageways where the tale of Princess Aurora and the evil Maleficent is toldthis beautiful symbol of Disney's fantasy world come to life is empty. The attraction opened on July 17, 1955 with Disneyland Park. The castle’s design was based on the real Bavarian castle. Guests could not actually walk through the castle’s interior until 1957. The famed drawbridge has only been lowered twice—once at the opening of the park in 1955 and again in 1983 at the rededication of Fantasyland. Its sister castle resides in Hong Kong.

But its very emptiness is full of meaning. For that is precisely the function of Disneyland - to empty us of the harsh realities of life and render us unconscious to those things which are too hard to bear. That is part of the experience of Disney - to become "unconscious" of the real world and to enter a never-never land of fantasy and fakery. Fittingly Sleeping Beauty's Castle - a monument to a trance-like sleep - serves as the portal to this plane.

If Disney entices participants to fall asleep in order to escape life, the church's mission is to urge people to wake up - in order to experience an authentic and full existence. Easter is a revival call to all believers announcing the dawning of our new relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This is a radically new reality. The message of Easter wakes us, not just from a stuporing slumber, but also calls us forth from tombs of sin, bound in grave clothes of despair, to wear robes of righteousness and hope! Easter is not an empty Disney fantasy. Easter is the rousing, transforming power of God shaking each and every one of us awake to a life in Christ, a life eternal.

But how lackadaisical the church can be in the face of this miraculous gift. We would rather slumber on in a fog than be awakened to the promise of the future. Even this morning - Easter morning! - finds us sitting here to rejoice in the Good News with eyelids heavy and attentiveness droopy as a result of late night preparations and sunrise service celebrations as you pray I shut up soon.
What galvanizes and mobilizes us more - Sleeping Beauty's empty castle or Jesus Christ's empty tomb? The mission of the church then, is to make Jesus Christ as magical and mystical as Disney has made Mickey Mouse.
Easter is that time of year when many of us who may seem aimless and on a path to somewhere we don’t know, we need to be reminded that we are not alone. We are reminded that there is a purpose for each and every one of us. It’s that time of year where we awaken to a God who is not some sort of tyrant such as some think of from the Old Testament, but of a loving God that we see in the person of Jesus Christ who took our sins upon himself and nailed them to the cross through His Body. 
The Holy Spirit speaks to us like a symphony. Sometimes we don’t hear it; sometimes it’s faint and we are not sure what we’re hearing; and sometimes it’s very loud and clear. As the hymn that we will sing after this sermon tells us, when you near it, you can almost hear it. It’s like a symphony; just keep listening … And pretty soon you’ll start to figure out your part. Everyone plays a piece; and there are melodies in each one of us. When I am feeling out of place and wondering how I fit into this world, I listen to this hymn we will sing in a few moments. 
One of things that we are very proud of here at St. Francis, is the openness in which we carry out the Sacraments that our Lord Jesus Christ and the Churchinstituted. We are all different; and rightly so, and as such- just as the hymn says - in each of us is a melody. Each of us has a different melody; a different part to play, but through Christ every part is important.
Easter is that time year in which we need to keep listening. We need to keep listening to the nudging of the Holy Spirit. None of us are perfect. We are all flawed in some way. In some cases the world views us as flawed when in actuality we are not. We are just as God wants us to be. It is here at St. Francis that we remind everyone, that if you have sinned - if you come with true repentance in your heart - there is absolutely no sin that God will not forgive. 
The mercy of Jesus Christ is infinite. So, as were figuring out our part, we come here to church and we experience the Sacraments each and every one without limitation so long as we come with an earnest heart. It is Easter time when were reminded that race, nationality, gender,divorce, disfigured, ill, short, tall, thin, stout, sexual orientation – or Abbot Gentzsch’s buzzing hearing aid -nor any other thing that you could possibly add to this list will hinder the mercy and love of Jesus Christ.
As our mission statement says, “Love Christ, Keep His Commandments, Receive the Spirit. We merely need to do three things, and when we do those three things wholeheartedly and completely, we can feel confident that we are walking right with the Lord. Because the other thing that we very prominently like to say here at St. Francis is, Catholicism is not just a religion - it’s a way of life.” And the two most important commandments, as our Lord Jesus Christ taught us, is simply to love your neighbor as yourself and to love no other God but our God. We merely need to remember that our neighbor is every single one of the human inhabitants of this earth without exception.
And Christ doesn’t want you to stop your life merely for that, he only wants you to bring your Catholicism along with you - fore you are welcome as a guest in His house at any time. And this should be the message that the worldwide Church should have on this most glorious day.
And some of you may feel that the pomp and circumstance of the beginning of this Mass was all fluff and puff, but in reality it is far more than that. We need Easter and we need Easter to remember us. Christ died on the cross for every living creature, and we need to remember that and reawaken our spiritual sense with all that fluff and puff.

And so I say: Wake up, church! Christ is risen from the dead! Wake up to the power the risen Lord brings to your life. Wake up, church. Open up to the power of the Scriptures to speak to your life. As Jesus called Mary's name to finally stir her soul to consciousness, so Christ sends a personal wake-up call to each of us. Easter morning is an annual wake-up call addressed to Christ's own body, the Church. Body parts that have fallen asleep must be shaken back into circulation. If you are asleep or lounging about life, it is time to end your hibernation and get those tusshies” that are currently glued to your pew and get moving. Wake up, get up and sign up. Let's bring the whole world back to life!
There! I bet you thought I was going to make this twice as long as normal?! Ha. Happy Easter and don’t let it go to your head!
Let us Pray.
Father God, today we mark the magnificent and glorious resurrection of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We welcome the day with pomp and circumstance as we should, with renewal of heart, mind and spirit. 
Let us awaken today to Your great gift – that of our salvation and promise of our own resurrection – that You and Your Son gave us with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as we renewed our vows and beliefs. Let us not have empty shells as that of the Disney castle, but in the mimicking of Disney of knowing that in the Resurrection, we truly can be happy and leave “reality” aka: the world, behind and fill ourselves with Your saving grace.
I ask that You bless everyone this day, with You mighty grace, mercy and love. Be with the many homeless of the world, the many sick in the world, the many suffering from terrorism and/or war in the world. Fill the world with Your peace – the peace that only YOU can give; filled with that grace, mercy and love that Your Son showed us while He walked upon this earth. We ask all of this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.