March 21, 2008

Seeking the Face of the Lord

At Easter, we experience the mystery of life conquering death

For people of faith, Holy Week is a time of very special grace.

In a certain sense, for people of faith, it is as if this special week is sort of suspended in time, just for a bit.

All we need to do is give ourselves to the special liturgical prayer which the Church presents to us, especially during the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil.

These particular liturgical celebrations carry the noble simplicity of our most ancient celebrations.

On Holy Thursday, once more we celebrated the memorial of the Lord’s Supper with special gratitude for the wonderful gift of the Eucharist and

the priesthood in our lives.

And we also celebrated the great example of loving service which Jesus demonstrated in the washing of his disciples’ feet. It is at this celebration that each year we are reminded that Jesus calls us “friends.”

What can one say about Good Friday? “Greater love has no one than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).

Our Good Friday liturgy is one of profound and noble simplicity. I hope you were able to gather for special prayer as we remembered what great love the Lord has for all of us. He suffered and died so that every one of us might have life forever.

Each year on Good Friday, we are privileged to walk with Jesus through his suffering and death. It is the least we can do in return for the blessing of his love in our lives!

No liturgical celebration is more beautiful than that of the Easter Vigil. The great Easter fire and the lighting of the paschal candle are rich in their symbolism.

We are led through the story of our salvation in a wonderful series of readings. How moving are the baptism of catechumens and the confirmation of candidates! In fact, the entire Vigil and Eucharist are moving.

Easter is the great solemnity of hope. It is the victory of life over death, salvation over sin. We sing with gusto “the strife is over and the victory won.”

Yet much seems the same on Easter Monday. The suffering and death which God asked of his own Son gives us the key to make sense of human tragedy all around us.

Once more, we have traced the path of Christ’s Passion, the path of an innocent man who was betrayed by a friend and then forced to die the humiliating death of a criminal. And once more we emerge from the Triduum with great rejoicing because we have been saved from sin and death. Alleluia!

I like to remember why our Church clings to the tradition of displaying the cross with the image of the body of Jesus on it.

This tradition is not a denial of the victory of Jesus over death, and it is not a displacement of the centrality of the Resurrection in Christian life.

We want to be reminded that a real human person stretched out his arms on the cross and suffered deeply because he loves us.

Our crucifixes embrace a Christian realism about life and death and resurrection, and they strike a chord in our human experience.

They remind us that “He came unto his own and his own received him not” (Jn 1:11).

Our ancestors rejected Jesus Christ and handed him the cross.

Every Holy Week and Triduum, we remember the death of Jesus, when he converted the cross into a crucifix.

We know the cross: It is the problem of pain and death in our lives. Jesus on that cross is the solution. Jesus shows us that pain can be the prelude to joy and peace; but more than that, the cross is the way to salvation. Christ fell on Good Friday, but he rose to glorious life on Easter Sunday.

Easter is a special feast for those among us who bear more than their share of human suffering. Jesus showed us that life does not end with death. We can experience solidarity with him in prayer, together and alone.

And so Easter is the pre-eminent feast of hope! For those who face death with fear, Jesus showed once and for all that in death, life is changed and not taken away.

In one of our eucharistic prayers, we are reminded that we are called “to a Kingdom where every tear shall be wiped away.” This is the true home to which all of us are journeying. And so Easter lifts our spirits along the way.

Thank God for the gift of our Easter faith! Thank God for the gift of his own Son! Thank God for his Easter victory!

God bless you and yours with the happiest Easter ever. I offer joyful prayer for all of you! †

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