Old Testament Reading- Psalm 118:14-24
New Testament Reading- 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Gospel of Matthew 28:1-10
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -April 9, 2023 Easter Sunday
I was watching a Diane Sawyer interview the other night, in fact, I really just caught the last forty-five minutes of it, about the terrible accident suffered by the actor Jeremy Renner. You may know Jeremy’s work as he has acted in many movies, including Mission Impossible, The Bourne Legacy, and more recently, he played the superhero Hawkeye, the archer, in the Marvel movies. Jeremy even has a tie to Erie, when the television series he stars in called, “Mayor of Kingstown,” filmed right here along the bayfront at Lampe Marina.
Jeremy lives up in the mountains in the state of Nevada. Needless to say, they get a lot of snow there, and pictures of his house in the winter show mainly his roof poking out of the snow. Jeremy is big on family and friends, so he often has a lot of people at his house. On January 1, 2023, Jeremy’s family was there for the holidays, and he was pulling a pickup truck up the hill with his Snow Cat. A Snow Cat is a seven-ton machine with extra wide tracks on each side like a bulldozer. This machine is used primarily on ski slopes for grooming purposes and for opening large snowy areas. The machine that Jeremy owns was sold to him with the house, as the previous owner told him that this machine is essential to being able to live there in the winter months.
As I said, Jeremy’s nephew, Alex, who is grown but still young and not particularly accustomed to working around heavy equipment, had gotten his truck stuck in the deep snow. Jeremy grabbed a chain and hooked the Snow Cat to the truck and pulled it out. Alex was driving the truck. When they got into the driveway, Alex hopped out of the truck and unhooked the chain that was used to haul the truck. He then drove the truck around to the front of the Snow Cat and got out again and was standing behind the truck. The Snow Cat started to slide on the icy driveway and Jeremy could not see where his nephew was for sure but knew that the plow was sliding towards the truck. He tried to get his eyes on Alex by opening the door of the Snow Cat and leaning out to see if he could get a better vantage point for seeing his nephew but slipped on the tracks and fell out of the machine. Fearing that the plow would crush Alex, Jeremy attempted to jump back onto the Snow Cat, but when his foot hit that slippery, metal, moving track he never made it to the cab and was catapulted forward and down by the track which resulted in him being run over by his own machine.
Alex was safe, but Jeremy was lying in a pool of blood in his own driveway. One minute everything is fine, the next he is fighting for his life. Fortunately, Alex was able to get help and within twenty minutes, even all the way up that mountain, first responders were on site and a helicopter was en route. The weather had changed just enough in the last minutes to enable the chopper to arrive and fly Jeremy to the Renown Trauma Center. He was placed in Critical Care as the doctors decided what was their best course of action. He had a collapsed lung and over thirty broken bones: one clavicle, many ribs, leg, ankle, foot, shoulder, jaw and cheekbones. Many metal rods, plates, and screws were used to put Jeremy back together.
After a lot of surgeries, pain, worry, tears, and prayers, Jeremy is back on the road to recovery. He is starting to walk again with help from a walker and will have tons of therapy to go through, but he has a great attitude and people who love him. He will be back with more work and time.
I am watching this and listening to him, and his family tell their stories and the tears start streaming down my face. Boy, do I know how he feels right now. It made me think of when I was hit and all the surgeries, pain, worries, tears, and prayers we all went through. Jeremy talked about how humbled and blessed he was to be helped by so many and loved by so many. I felt the same way. Perfect strangers would send me cards and money because they had heard about me on the news or in the paper. Like Jeremy, I felt humbled by all the help I was given by people, both professionals and volunteers, as well as friends and family.
I know sometimes, this world can be rough and sometimes, we can get downright tired of people and how selfish they can be, but they are not all that way. Some people are just about as wonderful as anyone could ever be.
Jeremy talked about seeing his family for the first time after the accident when he was in ICU. I don’t have much memory of ICU, just little minutes really, none good either, but I do remember lots of people coming in to see me and I can’t begin to tell you how much that meant to me. When I was out of ICU, they wanted me to start eating again, but I just didn’t feel like it and I can remember my mother bringing me salmon patties, one of my favorites, but I just couldn't eat them, which made me feel bad, when I felt she did all that for me. From my hospital bed at Hamot, I could see down the hallway and one of my best memories early on was of my wife coming down that hospital hallway waving to me and smiling as she walked. Just that little thing was huge to me right then.
Some people are just about as wonderful as anyone could ever be.
So here we are on Easter Sunday when we hear the stories of long ago and commemorate what Jesus did for us. You know, before my accident I thought differently about Easter. I was young, my thirties and younger, and I was immortal, or so I thought. After the accident, well, let’s just say that when you come close to dying, it changes your outlook on things. Things that bothered me before, don’t bother me nearly as much. The sky is a little bluer, the grass a little greener, and Jesus, well, He was important to me before, but He got a whole lot more important after my experience.
I can imagine the pain, worry, tears, and prayers on that Passion Week over two thousand years ago when Jesus prayed for His disciples and His current and future followers, you and me. He prayed for the Father to give us strength, courage, and faith that we would need to endure the hardships of the world. We would need patience and charity to be able to serve others and we would need protection from the agents of the darker realm.
I can imagine the pain, worry, tears, and prayers as Jesus was beaten and bullied, and when He was ridiculed and mocked. I can imagine how hard it must have been to hear all those people say Crucify! Crucify!
I can imagine the pain, worry, tears, and prayers when Jesus was hung on that cross for a crime He didn’t commit, but one that you and I committed. I could imagine his loved ones wailing at the foot of His cross, “Why, Jesus, why must this happen?” “Don’t Die, Please, Don’t Go!” I can imagine hearing His last words, can you? Listen, did you hear Him? “It is finished.”
I can imagine the pain, worry, tears, and prayers when they placed Him in a tomb and rolled the heavy stone over the entrance, “Jesus is gone, our hope is gone.” I can imagine His followers all wondering what went wrong, what just happened? I can imagine sleepless nights, wondering what will happen next. “Will the Romans come for us next? Will we all be put to death?” I can imagine what it was like to go to that tomb on Sunday morning to mourn and to try to finish final preparations on the body.
I told you that Jeremy Renner and I both experienced such deep emotions of love when we saw our family and friends after our traumas. It changes you forever, I can still see all those times just like they were yesterday, and I can still feel those same feelings, so it never really goes away, and for that I am glad because it makes me realize how precious this life that God has given me truly is.
Those women that were so distraught, that loved Jesus so much were even more troubled when they found the tomb empty, but what’s that? They were dumbstruck when an angel of the Lord told them Jesus had risen. Could it be? No, was it really true? Then it happened, “Greetings,” said a voice. “What was that?” said Mary, “I know that voice, but it can’t be, it can’t, but I heard it.” Was Jesus really alive and well? Yes, there He was, they fell on their knees and kissed His feet, they were so happy, no, they were overjoyed.
There is not a word in this world that can really capture the feeling you have when you feel like they did, but the closest would be overjoyed. I know what it feels like for sure. I remember the love I felt when I saw the people I love, and I didn’t think I would see them again. I too was overjoyed. It is a feeling like nothing else I have ever felt, and it is the feeling I experience when I think about those women and His disciples seeing Jesus for the first time after His glorious resurrection. They felt overjoyed.
Now, here is the good news, in fact, you can call it gospel. What Jesus went through, all the terrible things He endured, He did it for us all, so that where He is, we will be also. When our soul is sprung loose from this earthly vessel, we will experience this feeling that I have told you about, but probably a thousand times more. As we are reunited with all those we have been separated from by death, we will experience that feeling, and when we encounter, for the first time, He who we love and have never met, when we meet Jesus, and we will meet Him, we will fall on our knees and kiss His feet, just like the women did on that first Easter Sunday and we will be, overjoyed. Thanks be to Almighty God for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ. Amen. Have a blessed Easter!