April 3, 2009

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Be grateful during Holy Week and enter into its hope

Holy Week is a time of special grace.

We need to give ourselves to the liturgical prayer which the Church presents to us, especially during the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. These celebrations carry the noble simplicity of our most ancient Catholic heritage.

On Holy Thursday, we celebrate the Memorial of the Lord’s Supper with heartfelt gratitude for the wonderful gift of the Eucharist in our lives.

We celebrate the institution of the sacrament of Holy Orders, which secures the Eucharist for us for all time. And we celebrate the great example of loving service which Jesus demonstrated in the washing of his disciples’ feet. At this celebration, 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.” Our Good Friday liturgy is one of profound and awesome simplicity. I urge you to join us for special prayer as we remember what great love the Lord has for us. He suffered and died so that every one of us might have life forever!

On Good Friday, we walk with him through his suffering and death. It is the least we can do in return for the blessing of Jesus’ love in our lives!

No liturgical celebration is more beautiful than that of the great Easter Vigil! The 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 Scripture readings. How moving are the baptism of catechumens and the confirmation of candidates! In fact, the entire Vigil and Easter 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 it is true that much can seem the same on Easter Monday. The suffering and death which God asked of his very Son gives us the key to making 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 rejoicing because we have been saved from sin and death. Alleluia!

Our Church clings to the tradition of displaying the cross with the image of the corpus, 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. A crucifix radiates the unmerited gift of Christ’s sacrifice of himself for us.

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. We see in them a sign of hope when we ourselves experience the cross in our lives.

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 as a community of believers and alone.

And so Easter is the pre-eminent feast of hope!

For those among us who face death with fear, Jesus showed once for all that in death, life is changed and not taken away. For those among us who have lost a loved one, perhaps recently, we find consolation in the hope that he or she find their ultimate home in the house of the Father and that some day we will be with them. Death is the door to eternal happiness.

And so, after reliving the experience of the mystery of the Passion and death of Jesus, once more we thank God for the gift of our Easter faith and the gift of his Son. We thank God for his Easter victory, which is re-presented in the Eucharist to the end of time.

After the homily at the solemn Easter Mass, we are invited to renew the promises and profession of faith that were made at our baptism. We take that profession seriously, and interiorize it in the depths of our hearts.

It is an opportunity to deepen our faith so that joyfully once more we might live the hope and charity that is our shared calling and blessing.

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

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