By Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J.
“THIS IS THE day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” Alleluia! May the blessings of peace and renewed faith be with you and yours these Easter days.
Another Lent has passed, another Holy Week is prayed and on this Sunday we recall our baptism and renew our promises. This renewal is a call to be an Easter people who proclaim with our lives the Gospel message. We, Easter people, witness that we are saved and redeemed by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the services, rituals and Eucharists of just this week alone, we find that meaning reinforced and dramatized. It is just that for all of us who stand on Easter and say, more than once, “I do” to our baptismal promises.
Forty Days of Reflection
Seven weeks ago we were making our ways over snow and ice to receive an ashen cross of Christ upon our foreheads. We were invited to recall, during the next 40 days, Jesus’ words, actions, teachings and challenges.
Was our journey different this year? Were we more aware of our call and God’s grace in our efforts? Have we come closer to accepting and holding onto the power of His Cross, His sufferings and His dying, which bring us healing and new life? Didn’t the harsh weather, the violence and terrorism in human hearts around the world and even the darkness, which resides in our own hearts, place the Cross vividly before us? Thank You, God, for Easter and the Resurrection promise.
Easter bombards our human senses and our spiritual sensibilities with the reality that all life, all newness of creation, all resurrection comes from a dying and letting go of a former or present way of being. Eternal life comes in the letting go of a temporal and a physical life. It comes with “emptying ourselves” of who we are for who we can become.
The Easter Sequence sings, “Christ the Just One paid the price … reconciling sinners (us) to the Creator – Father God.” We sing this today with our Alleluias and Hosannas. We adorn our churches, cemeteries, homes, children and ourselves with signs of spring – lilies and tulips, chicks and bunnies, brighter colors and colored eggs, Easter breads and chocolate crosses. We’ve remembered new life in a Lent of ice and snow, fears of world violence and betrayal of goodness. Today, we reach out to the Risen Christ Who won our salvation. We focus on that new life which Jesus’ sacrifice, during His life and on the Cross, secures for us.
As we gather with those we love, miss those separated from us by death or distance and pray for peace and harmony, may we know that the Risen Lord is always with us. May we recall His desire and eagerness to fill us with the power of resurrection. May we trust that this power enables us, in all of life’s greater and lesser challenges, to do “infinitely more than we could ever ask or imagine.”
On Saturday night, many of us attend the Easter Vigil in one of our Brooklyn and Queens parishes. This year, close to 1,100 brothers and sisters, neighbors all, are entering into full communion in our Catholic faith. On this night they listen with us to the Scriptures and prayers which tell our Salvation history and they add their “I do” to ours as we proclaim our “yes” to baptism’s call to discipleship. Together with them, we receive and become one Body, nourished by the Bread of Eternal Life.
A Lifelong Journey
To wrap our minds and hearts around these mysteries is a lifelong journey and a prayer-filled undertaking. It is a journey not taken lightly or alone. Our Savior, Who emptied Himself to become like us, is with us and knows our struggles.
Our strength is in Jesus Who, on the night He was betrayed, prayed, “Let this cup pass from Me.” When nailed to a cross, He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” In trust, He was finally able to say, “Not My will but Yours be done,” and “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.” He is our companion and model for the journey.
The disciples and apostles are also guides for us. As we see their weakness and sadness, we remember that they didn’t have the hindsight vision afforded us. During Christ’s Passion, some of them were not always exemplary models of fidelity, while others were steadfast in their presence.
Tears, Hope, Courage
At Easter we find various resurrection accounts of fear, anger, shock, tears, consternation and questioning. It seems only after hearing, seeing and touching Jesus that they could become amazed, understanding, trusting and rejoicing – even a bit courageous and “on fire.” Our ways are often their ways.
Where do we find ourselves as April begins? Some may be sighing with tears, fears, worries, limitations, pains, losses or sufferings. Others may be “managing” to put one foot in front of the other as we try to be hopeful and some may be enjoying an understanding, peace or newfound energy or courage. On any given day, it may well be a “one from column A and two from column B” kind of journey.
Wherever we may be, let us pray for each other. May we find ourselves strengthened by Jesus Christ who bore our infirmities, healed us by His wounds, poured out His life unto death, rose again and raises us to eternal life. There we will behold the promise given us at baptism.
Easter blessings and peace!
Readings for the Resurrection of The Lord
Acts 10: 34A, 37-43
Psalm 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Colossians 3: 1-4 or
1 Corinthians 5: 6B-8
John 20: 1-9
Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J., a trained spiritual director and retreat facilitator, is a pastoral associate/family minister at St. Nicholas of Tolentine parish, Jamaica.