My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
At the beginning of this Lent, we heard the words, “Remember you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” Little did we know that as we come to the end of Lent and the celebration of Easter that these words would become a reality for many and, unfortunately, for some of our priests and laity. We mourn their passing and we wonder how we can celebrate this Easter joyfully. We must remember the words of the Beatitude that Jesus pronounced on the Mount of Beatitudes, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
We believe those words. The word blessed for Our Lord meant not just some type of passing joy, but rather a deep-seated ability to deal with the difficulties of life annunciated in the Beatitudes. Jesus gives us an understanding of the contradictions that are part and parcel of everyone’s life and now part of the life of the Church during this pandemic.
Recently, in reading a book by the now Blessed Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen on his reflection on the “Cries of Jesus From the Cross,” he says this about the Beatitude Blessed Are They Who Mourn: “The difference between the Beatitude of the world, ‘Laugh and the world laughs with you,’ and the Beatitude of our Lord,
‘Blessed are they who mourn,’ is not that the world brings laughter and our Lord brings tears. It is not even a choice of having or not having sadness; it is rather a choice of where we shall put it; at the beginning or at the end. In other words, which comes first; laughter or tears?”
Blessed Archbishop Sheen goes on to explain that whether our joys will come in life or in eternity depends on where we put our stock. Where is our hope? Is it in the present world or in the world to come? We are asked during this Lent to make a decision that we truly do believe, that there is something more to life than what we can see, more to this present valley of tears. There is more than this pandemic that threatens us.
We all feel helpless at this time. We all wish we could do more to ease this suffering. We do not know what is the best way to do this.
And yet, we must find meaning in this suffering that we now endure. The only meaning we can find is what Jesus taught us. We look to the Mount of Calvary to understand the Beatitudes because it is there that the contradiction finds an answer. Without suffering, the world could not be saved. Without our present suffering, we, too, cannot really celebrate Easter in the true joy that it holds for us. Not without tears, not without mourning, but with the real joy that only the Resurrection of Jesus Christ can give to us.
As we look at the Resurrection accounts, it is clear in all of them that the Apostles, once they recognized that the Resurrection had taken place, were afraid. Many did not believe the Resurrection of Jesus had happened. It was not until Jesus appeared among them, and for some not until Pentecost, that it was accepted by them. Yes, it takes time for us to absorb the meaning of the Resurrection as it did for the Apostles and the first disciples.
We are in need of this time of reflection before Easter. This Holy Week is unique and different from any other than we have ever experienced, with all of its inconvenience and certain mourning for ourselves be-
cause we cannot receive the sacraments that sustain us so much. But it is before this mystery of the Resurrection that we stand at this Easter ever more mindful of what it took to save the world. It was the suffering of the innocent God and man, Jesus Christ, because otherwise He could not be raised up by the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This Easter is a time when we all have put out into the deep recesses of our faith. We have gotten down to the basics. What do we really believe about suffering and death? It seems to be all around us. What do we believe about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Did it really happen? Was it a corporeal resurrection? Or is it just some myth that has sustained Christians over two millennia? No, we believe. And we know that the mysteries of our faith are true, and they will sustain us and bring us from this present crisis to understand a new way of living and hoping and even a new way of mourning because the Lord Himself has told us that we would be comforted.