Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
by Bishop William S. Skylstad
(From the March 20, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Easter is the greatest feast day of the Churchís liturgical year. The Sacred Triduum provides a rich experience of ritual that is unmatched by any other time of the year.
Holy Thursday celebrates the institution of Eucharist, the great gift of Jesus who makes himself present to us in this special way in every parish in the world. The Bread of Life comes to us in a nourishment of the human heart that is hungry for peace, fulfillment, and love. Only in God will we find those qualities that give us a sense of direction, purpose, and perspective. Eucharist calls for fidelity of worship and praise, responding to Jesusí directive: ďDo this in memory of me.Ē Fidelity calls us to every Sunday (or Saturday evening) Eucharist, not just Easter, Christmas, or sporadic attendance.
Good Friday helps us relive the Passion and death of Jesus, a powerful moment of love in his life for all of humanity. The pain, hurt, suffering within us and amongst us must be seen in light of Jesus inviting us to follow his footsteps. The painful and broken parts of our lives or that of the world around us should not leave us distracted by superficiality, escape, or despair. Godís grace is always at work in every situation, and after all, we are to be people of hope. The cross, dashed expectations, even rejection, can be opportunities of maturation and spiritual growth. Everyone of us is in the business of striving to be holy people, and its tough, messy work. The Lord is always with us. And we should be with one another. Thatís what a community of faith really means as we relate to one another in the love we see†in Jesus hanging on the cross.
The Easter Vigil consists of the special ritual of the blessings of the Easter fire, the proclamation of Godís word, the blessing of the baptismal water, and the celebration of the sacraments of initiation for the elect as they become members of the Church, with the joyful celebration of Eucharist.
What a great day that first Easter must have been! This is a spectacular moment in human history and truly a new beginning as the presence of the Risen Lord as God comes to us for all ages. The Resurrection of Jesus on that first Easter is far too valuable to leave it only in the past as a great event of 2,000 years ago. We celebrate Easter today with great joy and gratitude. Traditions of Easter eggs and Easter bonnets add a bit of whimsy to the solemnity, but nothing compares to this day of new life and hope, already present and yet to be fulfilled in each of us.
The suffering and death of Jesus reaches its climax in the Resurrection on Easter morning. Initially, most of the people struggled with what happened, but it was John, the apostle, who peered in to the empty tomb and first believed. Quickly the others would also come to believe and understand the events. Peter well realized the implications of this understanding, and he stepped out courageously in accepting the mission of Jesus. So did the early Church.
We believe and also strive to understand. Itís not only the physical death of the body that will eventually take all of us, but there is another kind of death, or near-death, that can touch our hearts. Perhaps we donít often think about the kind of spiritual sickness or brokenness in the human heart that calls for a dying to self, that calls us to turn from an old way of life that is destructive or dehumanizing, that calls us to a discovery of a new way of life with Jesus and community. That is also a resurrection, Easter lived today.
Just as the early disciples struggled with what really went on in their lives as they witnessed the Passion and Resurrection, so we too must address the complex reality of our lives with faith and understanding. That is why a community of faith is so important as it strives to be an Easter people which assists each of us when we experience those little deaths (or big ones, too). Community can†give†us a sense of balance and hope. The promise of Jesus to give life and to give it the full involves all of us in the mystery of salvation.
The celebration of Easter does help us remember what happened long ago with the empty tomb, but also now we can look beyond the empty tombs of life and truly rejoice and thank God. I extend to all of you and your families a blessed and joyful Easter! The Risen Lord is with us!
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