May 15, 2020

Christ the Cornerstone

We can rejoice this Easter season because Jesus is close to us

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Shout joyfully to God, all the Earth, sing praise to the glory of his name; proclaim his glorious praise. Say to God, ‘How tremendous are your deeds!’ ” (Ps 66:2-3)

The Sixth Sunday of Easter, which we celebrate this weekend, continues the joy-filled themes of this holy season.

As we begin the liturgy, the Entrance Antiphon (Is 48:20) announces: “Proclaim a joyful sound and let it be heard; proclaim to the ends of the Earth: The Lord has freed his people, alleluia.”

Scripture readings, prayers and acclamations continue the joy-filled proclamation that Christ our hope is risen. Even in times of tragedy and deep sadness, we insist on the joyful character of this liturgical season. Are we deluding ourselves? Or do we truly have reason to rejoice?

The great mystery of our Lord’s resurrection, his triumph over sin and death, is that while we continue to experience the effects of evil (plagues, natural disasters and catastrophes resulting from human sinfulness), their power over us has been neutralized by the love of God perfectly realized in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. By his wounds, we have been healed. By his freely chosen gift-of-self, we have been released from the bondage of sin and the finality of death.

Even when we can’t see or understand the reasons for the bad things that happen to us—and especially to those who are most vulnerable and undeserving of the hardships that are imposed on them—we are invited to rejoice in the unconditional love and mercy of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. He invites us to accompany him on his journey from death to new life. As close as he is to us now, the hope we have received through our participation in the joy of Easter is just a foretaste of much deeper joy to come.

This means that, even in the worst possible circumstances, the risen Lord is with us. He is close to us. He shares in our suffering and our sorrow. He mourns with us. He comforts us and gives us hope.

Above all, we can rejoice because our Lord invites us to share in both his suffering (his passion and death) and his joy (his resurrection and ascension into heaven). Even in our own suffering and death, we are promised the joy of being united with Christ—both here and now and in a better life to come. As individuals and as a community of faith, we are invited to draw near to Christ, and so encounter his mercy and his hope.

Practically speaking, we Christians are not naïve or foolish about the manifestations of sin and death that confront us in daily life. When someone we love dies, we mourn but we don’t lose hope. When we confront the realities of poverty, homelessness or injustice, we don’t react passively; we practice the virtues of charity, hospitality and justice. When a massive pandemic strikes our homes, our communities and our world, we don’t give up; we make sacrifices and endure hardships to slow the spread and protect the health and well-being of those who are most vulnerable.

We do these things in confidence and hope because we know that the Lord is risen. We endure hardships, provide comfort and support to others, and accept the things that we can’t change, because Jesus is close to us and assures us that no matter what happens, all will be well.

As Christians, we look to Mary and the saints to inspire us and be our guides during difficult times. These are the women and men who have gone before us testifying to the power of the Resurrection. They knew great sorrow, and they endured severe pain and suffering (even martyrdom) with confidence in the Lord’s closeness to them. They were not afraid. They trusted in the Lord.

The First Reading for this Sunday (Acts 8:5-8, 14-17) tells the story of Philip’s witness to the resurrection:

“Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured. There was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:5-7).

Great joy comes with the realization that Christ our hope is risen. We can rejoice this Easter season in spite of everything because Jesus is close to us. Let’s draw near to him, and to one another, in hope and in joy. Alleluia! †

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