We find ourselves in the holiest week in the church year. The Lenten season of grace is coming to an end. Jesus — the one who loves us more than we can imagine — is calling us to himself in an ever-deeper way, inviting us into his endless forgiveness and mercy and
asking us to return whole-heartedly to his loving embrace. His outstretched arms are waiting for us. The celebration of the Sacred Triduum, the three holy days, draws us into those outstretched arms. This is why he came down from heaven.
We find our deepest meaning in life in those outstretched arms. It is a place of union in our darkest hours, in our times of greatest pain, in those seemingly hopeless moments. To be held in his loving embrace is to experience eternal life now, though in our limited human way. Here is where we are most loved and cherished.
And as we all know, what follows the embrace of Jesus on the cross is the glory of his resurrection. For the Christian, the resurrection of Jesus is the lens through which we must look at all of life. Pope Francis encourages, “Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world. Where all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up. It is an irresistible force. Often it seems that God does not exist: all around us we see persistent injustice, evil, indifference and cruelty. But it is also true that in the midst of darkness something new always springs to life and sooner or later produces fruit. On razed land life breaks through, stubbornly yet invincibly” (Joy of the Gospel, # 276).
Yes, our world today may not reveal many signs of resurrected life. In fact, it might be difficult for many to even believe in the presence of God and that he really is in control of the things of this world. But as people of faith, we believe that God is alive through the power of his Spirit. We are convinced that he loves us beyond measure and will never abandon us. The resurrection of Jesus is woven into the fabric of human history — past, present and future. If Christ has not been raised, then our faith is useless. (1Cor 15:17) When people have no hope, it is difficult to see that anything or anyone can make life better.
Christ offers us that hope! The resurrection of Jesus Christ gives hope in the darkness. But we must be grounded in faith if hope is to be alive in us. This is what Easter brings for the world. Faith “involves knowing with certitude that all those who entrust themselves to God in love will bear good fruit. This fruitfulness is often invisible, elusive and unquantifiable. We can know quite well that our lives will be fruitful, without claiming to know how, or where, or when. No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted. All of these encircle our world like a vital force. The Holy Spirit works as he wills, when he wills and where he wills; we entrust ourselves without pretending to see striking results” (Joy of the Gospel, #279).
This is Easter faith! Easter faith leads to Easter hope!
This faith will be evident across the diocese at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night as men, women and children will be fully initiated into the life of Christ and his church. It never ceases to amaze me the way God continues to call people to him and sets them on new journeys of life. What will be in store for these new Catholics, only God knows! But it will be exciting if they follow where God leads them, in complete faith and trust. It is important that all of us accompany them with our prayers and support. This Easter faith is not lived in isolation, but in the midst of the body of Christ. Let us support these catechumens and candidates, and celebrate with them through our prayers.
Though Easter comes around once a year, each year we are brought back to this mystery of God’s love for us, his love for creation, and his love for the world. This Easter celebration is more than one day or one weekend. I hope and pray that all of us will celebrate this incomprehensible mystery with great joy over the fifty days of Easter. May each day during the Easter season bring us into a new encounter with Lord of Easter, the Risen Christ, who will lead us to a new life in the Spirit of Pentecost.