>>d'oh, I had meant to post this on my blog, but since it's already posted here, I figured I'd leave it on The Catholic Guy Show site too...
(Readings for today can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/041209.shtml)
This is my homily for Easter Sunday - my prayers and best wishes to you and yours that the Risen Christ may bring the joy, the peace and the hope that only he can bring. God Bless! Fr. Jim

Back in December of 2005, New York City Firefighter Matt Long was assigned as the fitness instructor at Randalls Island, the place where new recruits (probies) are trained to become one of New York’s "Bravest." It probably was the best job for Long to have because he was the epitome of an athlete. Earlier in 2005 he had completed his 30th triathlon (yes, you heard that correctly THIRTIETH Triathlon!) – and if you’re not sure what a triathlon is, to give you an idea, the last one included swimming two and a half miles, biking 112 miles (!!!) followed by running 26.2 miles. You could say the man was in phenomenal shape.

So on this cold December morning in 2005, some of you might remember, the transit bus workers had gone on strike - effectively crippling New York City. There were restrictions placed on people, forbidding them to drive into the city. Firefighter Long decided he would bike it to work. Sure it was cold out, but he figured it was only 3 or 4 miles anyway. He got up at 5 am, and started to make his way into work.

As he was en route, a bus that was hired by a local company to bring employees into work, made a wrong turn and crashed into him. This 40,000 pound vehicle pinned him and his bicycle in a mid-town intersection. The critical injuries were so bad that he was initially given a 1 percent chance of survival and if somehow he were to survive, they never expected him to walk again.

In those first days he had 3 emergency surgeries, received more than 60 pints of blood, was transferred to NY Presbyterian Hospital where doctors spent days just trying to keep the man alive. That would be followed by over 40 more operations, months in the hospital, therapy, lawsuits, more physical therapy. In an interview, Matt Long shared that at one of his lowest moments he wrote to a man who had suffered a similar catastrophic injury and said, "I need your help because I don’t want to live anymore." But the man wrote back to him saying, "Things have gotten better for me. If you work hard, they will get better for you."

After crying in anguish over what had become of his life, thinking of all the things that he had wanted or planned for - all of his dreams and goals that seemed to have been crushed - Matt says that something finally snapped inside of him and he started saying, "I will run again."

Less than three years later, this past November, Matt Long ran in the New York City Marathon. It took him 7 hours and 21 minutes, more than double the time it took him prior to the accident, for him to complete the 26 miles, but it wasn’t about the time it took. It was a victory to all those people at the finish line, from his surgeons, to family and friends, fellow firefighters - everyone who all stood by Matt and, each in their own way had said, I'm not giving up on you.

What makes Matthew Long’s story such a dramatic one is that in it we hear of someone who has experienced the Easter miracle. Here was a man who was crushed. A man whose world had disappeared. A man who thought he had no future. Yet, that voice from within made him say, "This isn’t the end." Yes the life he knew before is gone, but a new one has begun. And so he runs again.

We come together to celebrate another Easter. We remember that first Easter Sunday when Jesus came back from the dead. After being brutally beaten, crucified, killed and buried, our Loving Father opens Jesus’ tomb and he is raised from the dead. Not picking up his life from before. Not simply revived, like a corpse whose body starts to function again, but completely transformed into a new, more glorious, more triumphant form. And we gather, we come to renew ourselves with that Hope, with that Promise for each of our lives.

What Good Fridays are you enduring right now?

What losses have you experienced during this year?

What torments you?

What makes it difficult for you to sleep at night?

What fears are plaguing you with doubt at this very moment, what keeps you wondering, "What am I doing here, anyway?"

We who come to proclaim that Jesus Christ, who was crucified - and killed in such a horrifying manner - has been raised from the dead, are meant to look not just at some distant hope, in the next life, after our own deaths, disconnected from our present day realities. That knowledge, that proclamation is meant to also transform our hearts and spirits right now. That Good News of Great Joy should cause us to be attentive, to hear, to see God’s presence in our own sometimes tired and exhausted lives.

Yes, in the midst of the destruction we sometimes feel, the abandonment, the isolation - we can still hear that voice, like Matt Long did, which says, "I will run again" - I will be transformed, I will be reborn. When you do hear that voice, stop asking, "How?" Stop saying, "That’s not possible," or "That will never happen, at least not to me," and see, rather, how God is calling you to bury the hatred, the shame, the selfishness of the Good Friday you are enduring, and allow Him to let new things - wonderful things, transforming things - happen to you today, by embracing the Risen Christ.

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2 Responses to I WILL RUN AGAIN

  1. This is really great, Father! I wish I was there for its delivery!

  2. It is good that you made the mistake of posting it here. You give a better homily than I.