In his Easter homily Fr. Steve spoke to the difference that encountering Jesus makes in our lives. Our encounters with him give our lives a new vision and a new direction. Our encounters with the Risen Jesus give our lives hope and challenge us to share that hope and life with a world that desperately needs this vision and hope.
Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or lofty ideas, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Our lives are changed and transformed when we encounter the Risen Christ and we are given a new horizon, a new vision to view reality and life. Listen to the words from the letter to the Romans inscribed on our baptismal font: We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. That newness of life is ours as a Christian people, as a Catholic people. Our lives are changed and transformed through our encounter with Jesus. Yet, it is often difficult and challenging for us to describe the impact that the Risen Christ has on our lives.
Even those who were the first witnesses of the resurrection had great difficulty in explaining in their own words and actions the event that was to completely change their lives and their perspective of life. But should that surprise us? We, who gather around the baptismal font and the Lord’s table to eat and drink with the Risen Christ this night, are also chosen and called to be witnesses. And in being witnesses, we are evangelizers sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. As our Pope Francis has said, “Life in Christ grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others.” Going back to the Gospel, Pope Francis is challenging the church (you and me) to recover and deepen our enthusiasm of sharing the good news of Jesus with the world. And in doing this, we are called to die to our selfish selves and rise to a new life of selflessness – Jesus speaks time and time again to the depth of that reality.
As a Catholic people many of us are reeling because we cannot celebrate the liturgical life of the church in our normal way. We miss gathering together in flesh and blood around the Lord’s table each Sunday and especially during the Sacred Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. However, this is not our first rodeo as a church. The Catholic Church has been around for a long time, and she has endured many challenges and tribulations – among them the devastating cycles of the plague. The Church has remained strong because it has tremendous coping skills. One of the reasons that the Church became the official religion of the Roman empire is that it did not live in fear. The last pagan emperor, Julian the Apostate in 362 rebuked the pagan priests for failing to display compassion like the Christians. So a foundational quality of the Church was an instinct of generosity and selfless in the face of the plague – this remains essential. I am heartened by the people from our parish who continue to prepare soup and breakfast sandwiches for the poor in spite of the challenges this brings during these days of “sheltering”. The light of Christ continues to shine. I am heartened by the parishioners that are calling others to simply check on them. The light of Christ continues to shine. I am heartened by the many people who access our liturgies on the website – continuing to pray with the church making an Act of Spiritual Communion. The light of Christ continues to shine.
We are so blessed to share in the mission of Jesus Christ. We are blessed to have each other as we journey this road together. We are blessed to be able to be nourished by the gift of Jesus himself when we gather for Eucharist. We are blessed to be called by God to be his witnesses. We are blessed to be a community rooted in the Risen Christ. Although our world and our age would prefer us to keep Jesus buried in antiquity and locked up in our churches. We cannot. We must carry Christ into the world. We have no choice. It is our call. Let us embrace it with joy even in challenging and anxious times like these.