Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
"The power of Easter"
by Bishop William S. Skylstad
(From the April 6, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)
The Catholic Youth Celebration was held at Gonzaga Prep on the weekend of March 24-26. About 450 youth from around the diocese attended, along with parents and chaperones.
The event was high-energy and inspiring. The theme was “Today and Tomorrow.” The youth addressed our present state in the diocese with a sense of spiritual journey and with Biblical reflection. They seized their opportunity to respond to the mission of the Church as instruments of transformation and joyful hope. They were reminded they were disciples of Jesus.
I wish everyone in the diocese could have had the experience of the conference. It was a little less than 48 hours long, but it was filled with a spirit that positive, challenging, joyful, and grounded in realism.
Perhaps we can think of our journey through Lent in the same terms. Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday, keeps us grounded in the reality of our spiritual journey. The signing with ashes certainly does that. The intensity of these 40 days in preparation for the Triduum and Easter season leaves it imprint upon us. It is my hope that the experience will deepen our relationship with the Lord and our commitment to the Body of Christ in the Church.
The celebration of the Triduum in Holy Week begins with the Holy Thursday evening Eucharist, as we commemorate the institution of this powerful sacrament. There is much discussion going on in the Church right now about Eucharist and the need for all of us to appreciate this rich gift. Eucharist was the theme of the Synod of Bishops in Rome last October. The bishops discussed their concern about Eucharist being celebrated well, participation in Mass, and a weakening commitment to Sunday celebrations. Pope Benedict XVI will issue a response to the synod, to give guidance to the Church in deepening our Eucharist celebration and assist us in becoming more and more a Eucharistic people.
Good Friday shares with us the stark reality of Jesus’ Passion and death. We need to be reminded again and again of this great act of love of God for all of us. Love extended should also be love returned. Sacrifice given to redeem humankind should also be sacrifice from each of us to be faithful to the Gospel and to our baptismal commitment. We can’t hear and relive the Passion often enough to realize how important this story is in our lives, and what transforming power it has. Our sufferings in life come to us in many and myriad forms. Good Friday reminds us of uniting ourselves to the Lord Jesus during this special time in his own life. St. Paul says it well in his letter to the Colossians: “In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the suffering of Christ for the sake of his body, the Church.”
The Easter Vigil, celebrated in darkness, focuses our attention on the light of Christ as the Easter fire is blessed and the Easter candle is lit. The rich tradition of salvation history is placed before us once more in the readings from the Scriptures. The blessing of the baptismal water, along with the celebration of the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation and Eucharist) for the “elect,” become wonderful and powerful signs of the power of the Holy Spirit working in our midst. The liturgy of Holy Saturday is no longer than Monday night football. Yet the temptation to resist a longer ceremony seems at times difficult to overcome. Presence to a celebrating community of faith also demands of us sacrifice.
Easter Day arrives with the memory of that moment in salvation history when the power of the Risen Lord was made manifest, and was and will be forever with us. Easter is our greatest feast day of the year. Easter is the day of joy, transformation, hope, and new life. Easter is a feast of light, of Risen Presence always with us. Easter is always the great light at the end of the tunnel of darkness in life, whatever shape and form that tunnel might take. The young folks at the Catholic Youth Conference acknowledged the darkness, but instinctively knew that it is better to see the light than curse the darkness. Too many people today fall into the temptation of cursing the darkness. Cursing darkness does not give life. Nor does it give joy and hope. The path of Jesus was and is far different. So it should be for us, too.
To you, our diocesan family, I express my profound gratitude and prayerful best wishes for a joyful and blessed Easter. In preparation of that great feast, may we prepare together by celebrating the Sacred Triduum with devotion and profound gratitude.
May God bless all of you with much joy and peace.
© The Catholic Diocese of Spokane. All Rights Reserved