Sunday, April 17, 2011

What More?

This is Mr. Weber's Easter message to the students of JPII.

The greatest sermon I’ve ever heard was when I was 15 years old, and I remember it like it was yesterday. There was a guest priest who spoke at our Church the week before Easter, and he told us about the story of his best friend growing up.

He and his friend met in kindergarten, attended the same elementary school all the way through, then went to the same high school. They spent so much time together they were practically brothers, often spending the night at the other one’s house. He loved going to his friends’ house because he was from a large, Italian Catholic family, and his mother was an excellent cook who was always giving him food. As fate would have it, they were both drafted into the Vietnam War together and ended up in the same unit. The priest said that one night, they were on guard duty in a foxhole out on the front lines—just the two of them. It was a crystal clear night, starry, with no sound whatsoever, and he remembers his friend had pulled out a candy bar to eat, when suddenly, someone threw a live grenade into the foxhole, seemingly from no-where. They both hesitated, stunned. Then his friend, reacting more quickly, gave him a quick smile, handed him the candy bar, and threw himself on the grenade. His friend was blown apart and died instantly, but he was saved.

The priest said he was devastated for the loss of his best friend, and after the funeral, he spent a lot of time with the boys’ mother, mourning with her. He felt guilty that his friend had done what he had not done—why, he asked himself, had he not thought more quickly? Guilt turned to self-pity over the next several weeks. “Why him?” he asked the boys’ mother, over and over. “Why didn’t I do what he did?” “Do you think it was just instinct on his part?” “Do you think he did it out of love or was it just an automatic reaction?” “Do you think he really loved me?” The Italian mother, who herself had been grieving the loss of her son, could bear this no more. “You're asking me if he loved you? JESUS CHRIST, MAN, WHAT MORE COULD HE HAVE DONE FOR YOU?”

And the priest, as he told us this story, stopped, backed away from the lectern and said softly: “Jesus Christ—man, what more could he have done for you?” I was electrified, as if I had just heard the gospel for the very first time in my life. What more could Jesus have done for us?

As you know, this is the beginning of Holy Week, when we celebrate the passion and resurrection of Jesus. One of the real problems for us is that the story is too familiar. More than anything else, the passion and resurrection of Jesus is a love story—as John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” No matter what we’ve done, not matter what our sins, God loves us, and if we ask him, he will forgive us. He reminds us this Easter, that no matter how hard the cross we bear, that our final destiny is not the cross but the resurrection—that God’s love prevails, in the end.

The death and resurrection of Christ is the single-most important event in human history. I encourage you to attend your church’s services this week to remember and celebrate what God has done for us.

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