March 30, 2018

Christ the Cornerstone

Easter joy is born anew through the Resurrection

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ, joy is constantly born anew”
(Pope Francis, “Evangelii Gaudium,” #1).

The publication date for this column is March 30, Good Friday. This may be the saddest day of the Church’s year, but it is not joyless. Good Friday is joyful because it celebrates a beginning, not an ending. It is an affirmation of life and of the love that is stronger than death itself.

We are right to be sad today as we recall the humiliation, torture and brutality of our Lord’s death on a cross. But we’re also right to seek and find the Easter joy that is constantly born anew during this sacred time.

Our faith tells us that the death of Jesus set us free. Because he suffered and died for us, we are “free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness.” That in itself should be cause for joy. But the real source of our joy is the personal encounter with Jesus that was made possible because of his death on this holy day and his resurrection three days later.

In the coming weeks, throughout the Easter season, we will hear once again the wonderful stories of Jesus’ appearances to his disciples and friends—in the garden near the empty tomb, in the upper room behind locked doors, by the Sea of Galilee where the Lord cooked breakfast for his disciples, and on the road to Emmaus where he was recognized in the breaking of the bread.

These joy-filled encounters with Jesus, the risen Lord, are made possible in spite of his ignominious death on the cross. His selfless sacrifice on Good Friday earned forgiveness for our sins and allowed Easter joy to fill our hearts in the place of guilt or sorrow or despair.

Good Friday reminds us that we have been ransomed by the cross of Christ. The unending love of God has shattered the walls of our prisons and shown us the way out. Sin and death have been overcome by the selfless love of Christ, and no one ever has to be condemned to unending death again.

This is why on Easter Sunday we rejoice in the cross of Christ, why we sing alleluia, and why we give thanks to God for the gift of his saving grace. We have been liberated by the risen Christ. As a result, no one can ever take away our fundamental rights or our dignity as the free daughters and sons of the living God!

The freedom we have been given as a result of Christ’s death on the cross is a gift that has to be nurtured and developed. Left untended, freedom too easily becomes confused with license, the notion that we can do whatever we want without suffering any consequences. We mistake freedom for a sense of entitlement that persuades us that we deserve everything that has been given to us—without regard to the sacrifices of others.

But true freedom is the opposite of an irresponsible sense of license or entitlement. True freedom is a gift that we must cherish and take seriously. True freedom, when we recognize it, is a source of joy and gratitude because we know how rare it is and how easy it is to lose this precious gift as a result of our own carelessness.

This Easter, let’s thank God for the gift of freedom. Let’s resolve to be good stewards of this precious gift. And let’s combine our experiences of Easter joy constantly born anew with a sober recognition that our freedom is something we can easily lose sight of if we begin to take it for granted.

Our freedom was paid for by the cross of Christ. It has been maintained for 2,000 years by the blood of the martyrs and by the selfless love and sacrifices of all those faithful Christians who have gone before us. Let us rejoice and be glad that we are truly free! But let’s also remember that we are responsible for taking care of our freedom and for sharing it generously.

Let’s nurture our freedom, and share it with others, by being faithful witnesses to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The cross of Christ has saved us and set us free. That’s reason enough to be joyful even on Good Friday. But the muted joy we experience today will increase exponentially.

Very soon, in just two days, we will shout Alleluia! Christ our joy is risen! †

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