April 2, 2010

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Easter peace is ours to receive from Christ

Easter peace! “Peace be with you” was Jesus’ greeting on the evening of that first Easter. How fervently we hope and pray for the peace which the world cannot give.

Ever since Christ’s resurrection from the dead, we Christians pack our churches on Easter Sunday. We come to acknowledge our faith in the victory of Christ. And, dare I say, we come in search of Easter peace.

One Easter, the late Pope John Paul II prayed that the Risen Christ would receive into his glorified wounds all the painful wounds of contemporary society. He meant those wounds we read and hear so much about in the media, and also those which silently weigh heavily on so many people’s hearts.

It is a rare Easter Sunday that does not find strife in our contentious world, and painful wounds among us. This year, as always, we long for the hard-won peace of Christ. We pray for peace in our world, in our streets, in our homes and in our own hearts.

Easter peace is ours to receive from Christ. Let’s not miss the crucial fact that it is mediated through the Church, especially through the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and the anointing of the sick—sacraments made possible by holy orders. And so, yes, Easter peace is as near as our parish church.

But it doesn’t end there. All of us are mediators of Easter peace in our own right.

At Easter Mass, we lift up the sacrament of baptism, recalling that it empowers us to be messengers and agents of peace. In prayer and action, we should care for those who suffer want and hunger. We have our own missions right here at home.

In prayer and action, we look after the millions of refugees in our world who are unseen to us, driven from their own homes in their own countries. Our Catholic Relief Services does so in our name. We should open our hearts in prayer, in solidarity with the victims of terror.

We may not abandon our care and concern for the millions who are in prisons. Jesus said, “ I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:36).

Our Christian hearts go out to the victims of war or who suffer unexpected tragedies or natural disasters like the Haitians. Our Catholic Charities agencies are on call. We also turn our thoughts to those who suffer ridicule, even torture, because they are Catholic.

Closer to home, are we touching our sick, the elderly, those who are lonely, those who perhaps suffer from dementia? Are we there in the tough times? Are we with those who suffer from the weight of sin? Jesus banishes no one.

On Easter Sunday, we renew the profession of faith that was made when we were baptized. We claim our faith in the redemption Christ won for us. We would be ungrateful indeed if we remain just passive recipients of Christ’s gift of redemption.

Easter is the great solemnity of hope. We sing with gusto “the strife is over and the victory won.” Yet if much seems the same on Easter Monday, then we would do well to turn our thoughts back to the suffering and death that God asked of his own Son. There we find the key to make sense of human suffering—which is here on Easter, and will be here thereafter. It is part of our human lot.

Not long ago, I came across a TV shopping channel where a stunning jeweled cross was being displayed. A sales person said that the cross is “the number one fashion choice.” The other salesperson said it could even be blessed. The first responded, “Why would you want to do that? It’s only jewelry.”

We have a different view.

We sing Alleluia, yet we want to remember that a real person stretched out his arms on the cross and suffered deeply because he loves us. Our crucifixes embrace both a Christian realism and Christian optimism about life and death and resurrection. Are they more than a fashion choice, just jewelry in our eyes?

Easter is special for you who bear more than your share of suffering because you have the assurance that Jesus showed us that life does not end with death. He won for us entry to a kingdom where every tear will be wiped away. We experience solidarity with Christ in prayer, together and alone. And we live as Christian realists so as to make a difference for each other.

Easter is the feast of hope. Our crucifixes are a badge of hope. Thank God for the gift of our Easter faith! Thank God for the gift of his Son’s Easter victory!

God bless you and yours with a deep Easter peace. †

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