We have two homilies by Father Hanly for Easter Sunday, Year B. We have a recording and transcript for each homily.
In this beautiful homily for Easter Sunday, Year B, Father Hanly tells his favourite Resurrection story.
First Reading: Acts 10:34, 37-43
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-4, or First Corinthians 5:6-8
Gospel: John 20:1-9
Christ has risen, as he said. Very simple, but the phrase has changed the whole world. The world before the Resurrection is quite different than the world as we experience it now.
But you would never know this if you looked at the Gospel stories immediately after Jesus had risen, because the one word that describes all of the disciples and people who loved Jesus was “consternation.”
As you notice in this Gospel they’re running back and forth in great confusion. The women come to the grave bringing ointments in which to anoint Jesus, because, you remember, he was buried hurriedly on the Friday of his death.
And they saw that the tomb was already open, the stone rolled back.
And when they saw that, they looked, and they couldn’t see a body. And so Mary Magdalene ran back to Peter and told him that “They have taken away the Lord and we do not know where they have laid him.” And Peter ran along with John back to the tomb and they looked in and they also just saw the garments that he was buried in, but nothing else.
And then they wondered what it was, what had happened, because, as John says, they did not know what the Resurrection meant, even though he had said three times that he would rise from the dead.
The version we heard last night was the same version with one little difference. When the women came to the tomb, they actually went in, and there was a young man sitting by the clothes. And this young man said to them, “Who are you looking for?” And they said, “We are looking for Jesus of Nazareth.” And he said, “He’s not here. He has risen.” But he says that “if you go to Galilee, he will see you there.”
And so it is all during this day there’s a great confusion of where he is. You notice it’s not “Has he risen?” it’s “If he has risen, where are we supposed to find him now?” Because he definitely will not be found in the same way that they had experienced him when he was alive, for he has passed through another door, the door to a different and greater reality.
“Where is the Risen Lord?” is the problem. “Where are we to find him?” And this is why they were so confused. And it took them a long time before they began to put together the great puzzle. They knew that he had risen, but had he risen for them?
I tell this…this is my favourite story on the Resurrection Day. It has nothing to do with the Resurrection at all, and probably some of you who know me well have heard this story, but you wouldn’t mind hearing the story again.
It’s a story that was taught to me by the children in Taiwan many years ago. My first mission was in Taiwan, and if you want to learn to speak Taiwanese, you have to hang around with children a lot and they tell you the stories and you put them together and it’s quite a nice learning way.
And one of their favorite stories was the story of how the peanuts came to Taiwan. Did you realize that Taiwan at one time was noted for its peanuts? And this is the way the story goes.
Many, many, many, many, many years ago, Mr. Wong, who had five brothers, and they lived in a house, they were farmers, and one day he went to the town. And in the town there was a man dressed in strange clothing. And he saw the man was selling something like little beans. So he went over to the stall and he said to him, “What are you selling?” And the man said, “Peanuts.” And he said, “Peanuts. What are peanuts?” Well, he broke one open and he says, “Here. Taste this.” So the man tasted the peanut and said, “Wow, that’s the best thing.” Mr. Wong said, “That’s the best thing I ever tasted in my life. Where do you get these?”
And then the man proceeded to tell him that he had to cross six thousand mountains and go on a great journey and leave Taiwan and it goes on and on, and it depends how long you want to listen to this story, how many of the adventures the man goes in his search for the peanuts. He’s going to go and get the peanut plants. And he’s going to bring them back and they’re all going to become rich.
But, before he went, he told his brothers that he was going on this long and treacherous journey, but he would be back and he would make them all rich, because he was going to buy the peanut plants in this distant kingdom far away.
The other thing he did was he mortgaged the whole property that they had. They were not rich men. They were just poor farmers. He mortgaged it, but they agreed, yes, he should go and get the peanuts.
Anyhow, he went on the journey and he came back with the plants. And it was springtime and he hastened to put them into the earth. And he, every morning, would get up and go out to the patch and he’d look out and he’d see … where are the peanuts?
And suddenly they began to come up, the plants, one by one, and the little area that he had planted was filled with green little plants. And he was so happy. And in the morning he’d come out again and sit there and try to gauge how fast they were growing. And, then, all of the sudden, he saw the flowers come out and he said, “Wow, this is it. We’re going to have a crop very soon.”
And then, a few days later, he went out, sat there, and he saw they began to die. All the peanut plants were dying all around him. And they finally all died. And he didn’t know what to do, because he knew that he had failed. And he couldn’t go back and face his family, his five brothers, so he stole away from the village in the growing darkness of morning and he was not heard of for another five years.
And off he went and, of course, the poor man, he had nothing left, so he became a beggar.
And when he finally got up enough courage to return home (not to be recognized, but just to see how his family was faring), he expected to see them in terrible poverty, but they weren’t.
In fact, when he got down to the edge of town and looked to where the old house was, there was a brand new house and it was beautiful. And he saw his brother standing outside on the porch in very expensive clothing. And there was a large line of beggars, and the brother was handing out help and cash to the beggars.
And he decided, “Well, nobody would recognize me now, because I look so terrible, I’ve aged so much.” So he got on the line and he came up to the front of the line and his brother looked down and he said, “Big brother, where have you been?”
And he took hold of him and brought him into the main dining room of the family, and they washed him and put new robes on him and, finally, they brought out, and they’re having, a big feast of return and welcome.
And old Mr. Wong, he says to his brothers, he says, “What happened? What happened? I left you you were penniless, you lost everything.”
And he said, “What do you mean we lost everything?” He said, “The peanuts, the peanuts, they all died.” And then the second brother said to him, “Brother, the peanuts are underground. The plants had to die in order that we would harvest the peanuts.”
And that is how peanuts came to Taiwan.
And it’s a resurrection story. Listen carefully now.
Jesus comes and he dies that we might live. We say this all the time. But what we’re really saying is, Jesus came to live as we live, to take on the burdens and the joys of our life. As St. Peter says, he went about doing good for others. And then he served us so greatly and so true and so good. And finally he had given his own life. And in dying everyone was full of sadness and sorrow, but he said he would rise again.
And when he rose again, what happened was, it was like the peanuts. He died to show them where the real richness of the lives that we are leading has really lain.
Because the world as we see it, as we perceive it, is only the bush, it is only the flowering and it is only the death.
But the world that Jesus saw, and taught his disciples to see… remember when Jesus used to walk the Earth he used to say, “You have eyes to see, but you can’t see. You have ears to hear, but they’re stopped. And you have hearts to love, but you don’t.”
And what Jesus was trying to tell them was where the real life is. The real life is not in the exteriors. It’s not in the ordinariness of our time. The real life is deep down in our hearts and soul where we’re the images of God, the heirs of heaven. We are people to be taken seriously and we are people to take each other seriously.
For it is when we realize the real life within us, the life of God, the life that can only be reached when we finally turn away from our own needs and away from our own selfishness and begin to serve each other. For it is in the service of others that we find real life.
Remember Jesus said, “He who wants to live, must lose his life. And he who wants his life to keep it, will lose it.”
Because the meaning of Jesus’s life is to be loved by God and to love each other.
And it is only when we begin to imitate our Saviour, when we begin to take the Risen Lord seriously and into our hearts, and we begin to realize that Jesus serves. “I have come to serve, not to be served. Even to the point of offering my life.”
And this is what it means when he says, “I have come to give you true life, the real life.” Not the bush that dies, but the harvest of peanuts.
And so, from this simple little story, I think you all should understand today we celebrate the way. The way is to be with self-sacrificing love. That we turn out from our own selfishness and embrace. But in order to embrace others, you must see them the way he saw them. He didn’t see the bush, he saw the whole plant. And rooted deep in the ground and half hidden from everyone was the real people that we are. The people of courage, the people of caring, the people who are willing to sacrifice for our families, for our friends, but, even, Jesus says, for everyone.
So the next time you see somebody who drives you crazy and you find it almost impossible to be with, remember the peanuts. You’re only looking at the bush and the bush is dying. But if you want to touch the richness of another human being, you have to see as Jesus sees. And in seeing as he sees, we will learn to love as he loves. And when we learn to love as he loves, the world will be changed.
We Are All Heirs of Heaven
We are all heirs of heaven. In his homily for Easter Sunday, Year B, Father Hanly tries to help us understand that every person that you meet is a child of God, an heir of heaven and valuable beyond your understanding.
First Reading: Acts 10:34, 37-43
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-4, or First Corinthians 5:6-8
Gospel: John 20:1-9
I remember as a child, the main event of our celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord was the jelly bean wars between me and my little sister and my older sister.
My father used to bring in a big bag of jelly beans and put them down on the floor while we were watching funny favourites.
And then we would start fighting over the jelly beans, because there’s a pecking order for jelly beans, you know. Red ones are more important than yellow ones, and yellow ones are not as good as green ones, and the best of all are the black ones, so you get three, and it goes on and on.
And before you know it, we were fighting about it, very fairly, of course, and, all of a sudden, my older sister gets impatient and she throws the jelly beans against the wall. Then we started the jelly bean war.
My father came in and he looked at us. He was such a lovely man. He didn’t say a word, ran around and picked up all the jelly beans.
By that time, we were ashamed of ourselves. My father looks at us and you could see in his eyes, we have come on this most important occasion and what was it we do? We fight over jelly beans (chuckles).
Well, a lot of people thought that was a good thing, because I’ve given this talk before and I get jelly beans every time at this time of the year. People give me jelly beans and I get all the best of the jelly beans.
The reason I begin on a lighter note, because now I’d like to go back onto an important one.
You see, Easter Sunday is not Easter Sunday, it’s a whole history of people. It goes all the way back to the Jewish people. And the Jewish people celebrated the Passover as we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord.
As you know, if you were here last night, there’s ten readings from Scripture, eight of them from the Old Testament. And the one that must be read, must be read, is the one that describes Moses and the children of Israel escaping from the Egyptians.
As you know, the Jewish people were in Egypt for four hundred years under the heel of a terrible oppressive slavery. And at this time, they were free to leave, but only for a moment.
Of course, as Moses led his people away from this terrible land, they were just a rag tag group of people, not organised, not anything, and he led them through and out towards the Red Sea.
And they got to the Red Sea, and the word came to them that Pharaoh had changed his mind and now he was going to chase them down and he was going to bring them back and make them slaves again.
Moses looked up to heaven and he didn’t know what and then a voice said to him, “Stretch out your rod,” and he stretched out his rod. And there, the waters parted. The children of Israel ran across with great happiness and joy, to the other side on dry land.
And, of course, by the time the Pharaoh’s army got there with their chariots and warriors, it was still open so they rushed into the gap in order to catch the Israelites.
And what happened was Moses looked up again to God, and then God said, “Reach out your rod.” And he reached it out and the waters began to close. All the Pharaoh’s armies, the chariots, the men were drowning in the sea.
And that is the way this story ends, except in the Bible the Jewish people were so happy, especially Moses’ sister, that they began to sing and dance. And they were so happy because now they were free and they saw the others drowning in the sea.
And then an ancient story carries on from where the Bible leaves off, and the story goes:
“And they were so happy that the angels from heaven looking down were also happy and they were saying, ‘What a wonderful thing. We are saved.’ And they began to sing songs along with the Jewish people who had been saved.
“And then God suddenly turned on the angels and He says, ‘How can you sing and dance when my own children are drowning in the water?’”
Think of that now. We often think of religion, among other things, as good guys and bad guys, and the important people and the less important people. We think of them as… We divide them up according to our funny way of dividing things: the successful, the unsuccessful. And it’s wrong.
And I think that this little parable is enough to say why it’s wrong. Because the people of Egypt were created by God, loved by God, and held in high esteem in the heart of God, just as much as the people of Israel.
There is no such thing as a pecking order of good or bad among us. We are told “Do not judge lest you be judged.”
We are told that no one is allowed to look upon another man as less perfect, less important than oneself.
And it’s at times like this that this ancient parable speaks to us, because Easter is also a time of great sorrow, not Easter Day, not the Resurrection, but everything that led up to it.
And we are saved not by God’s Resurrected Son, we are saved because of what God’s Resurrected Son had done for us in the midst of terrible anguish and pain.
“For God so loved the world that He sent His Son that we might be saved.”
And he was rejected. And in the end, his friends left him, the authorities condemned him, Rome sentenced him to death, a death on the cross.
And then, at that time, Jesus hanging on the cross, the last gasp of his life, he looks out at everybody who had welcomed him as their Saviour and now had condemned him in this terrible, terrible way, and he turned to his Father and he said, “Father, you have to forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
It is that moment that we are saved.
It is not because we are smarter and better and filled with all kinds of wonderful, wonderful plusses in our personality or what have you.
We are saved because Jesus, at the moment when everybody had left him and the world condemned him, we are saved because Jesus says, “Father, you must forgive them,” and the Father forgives them.
Now, think of what we really are. We are the children of God. We are the heirs of heaven. We are those who follow Jesus in love and in caring.
And that is what makes us important. Not in the eyes of God, God had already made us important by giving us life and giving us talents and giving us whatever we have we know that we owe to the Father.
But it must be said and it must be true that each man who is born into this world, is loved and cherished as much by God and by Jesus as we who know and accept him as our Lord and our Master.
So I think what I would like to beg of you at this time in celebrating the sacred feast, to remember that we were called to love, not to love, to learn how to love.
And that is what Jesus comes to do. He comes to teach us how to love.
And that’s why we also must be as he, and say, “Father, forgive them.”
We must be forgiving. We must be caring. We must reach out.
God only reaches out. God doesn’t count His victories and His defeats. God reaches out with love and care.
Remember the Last Supper, what is the first thing that Jesus does at the beginning of this Passion, Death and Resurrection theme?
The first thing he does is washes his disciples’ feet – the act of a slave – unheard of.
So much that St Peter said, “I’ll have none of this. You cannot wash me.”
And then Jesus says, “If I cannot wash you, you will never know who I am. You can have nothing to do with me.”
And poor Peter he said, “Not only my feet, but my hands and my head and my whole body,” because the worst thing that could happen to Peter was the loss of Jesus.
This is a great lesson for us today in practical ways.
It means that the people who enter our lives are not to be judged according to their talents, not according to whether we feel that we like them or we don’t like them, or whether they belong to our language or our people or our crowd.
We love them because God made them, and if we cannot see their greatness, it’s because we are blind.
Remember Jesus also said, “You have eyes to see but you don’t see. You have ears to hear but you’re not listening.”
And he says this, not in degradation, he says this, he says, “Open your eyes and open your ears, and every person that you meet is a child of God, an heir of heaven and valuable beyond your understanding.”
And our task is to see in them what God sees in them, and to treat them as God treats them, and to care for them as God cares for them. And it is true.
The other great gift that Jesus gives us when he says to his Father, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” the great truth that Jesus is saying is: learn to forgive.
There’s an old saying, Jesus himself says it, he says, “Be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.”
And everybody thinks, oh you have to be superman or super lady, or totally clean or never have mucked around in the mud. It’s not true, because Jesus had done all of those things.
“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” is the old Jewish understanding of what is perfection.
And you’ll be surprised to understand that when they say God is perfect, they mean God is forgiving – nothing more, nothing less – God forgives. If you would be like God, you must learn to forgive.
If you want to go your own way, you may go your own way. But God will follow you because He never gives up on us, and He will teach us how to forgive.
So, the greatest gift that we have and we embrace at this special time in our lives is to learn how to forgive. And it’s so simple.
The good man, the Bible says, the good man falls seven times a day.
What does that tell us?
It means that we are people who must be forgiven again and again and again.
It doesn’t mean we’re supposed to be perfect and good and all these other things.
We must learn to forgive.
And in the forgiving, what do we find?
In the forgiving, we find the love of God.
And why did Jesus come and die for us?
That we might know that God loves us beyond telling and that God is with us beyond the ages.
And so, this small period of time when we celebrate this Easter Sunday, the two lessons that we must learn is to learn to love and to learn to forgive, and to learn in forgiving how to love.
Take it seriously. Bring this home. Think about it.
When you fail (the good man falls seven times a day), is that discouraging?
No. Mother Teresa says, “The only failure in life is when you fall down, you refuse to get up again.”
How many times must you fail?
We only learn through our mistakes. We never learn through our pride.
Let us then, during this Mass, ask God to make us what we once promised, maybe as infants, we would be, which are to renew our baptismal promises and to thank God for making us one with Him, that we might penetrate the great mysteries and, with great joy in our hearts, give ourselves to the love that Jesus would have us love, and the caring that Jesus has shown us as caring and, most of all, always forgive, for in forgiving, we ourselves are healed.
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Information about Father Hanly’s homilies for Easter Sunday, Year B
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Father Hanly's sermon for Easter Sunday, Year B, "Easter Sunday" was delivered on 12th April 2009. Father Hanly's sermon for Easter Sunday, Year B, "We Are All Heirs of Heaven" was delivered on 8th April 2012. It is sometimes hard to accurately transcribe Father Hanly's reflections, so please let us know if you think we have made a mistake in any of our transcripts, and let us have your suggestions.
We hope that Father Hanly’s homilies, always kind, always wise, always full of love, will restore you to peace and harmony through a new understanding of what is important in this world. We believe these homilies are inspiring for everyone, not only for Roman Catholics or other Christians.