Jesus has been raised from the dead, and life has new meaning. During the Easter Season, the Church continues to revel in the astounding fact that Jesus, crucified and buried, was raised from the dead.
The Easter message of the angel at the tomb resounds in our ears: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised.”
In the joy of the Holy Spirit we profess Jesus the Messiah has truly been raised and now, in his glorified humanity, he has opened up the possibility of eternal life for all those who accept the grace of conversion. And so, as St. Athanasius said, “The 50 days from Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated in joy and exultation as one feast day, indeed as one great Sunday.”
All throughout the Easter Season the Easter Candle, symbol of the Risen Lord, burns brightly in our sanctuaries. Our prolonged celebration of 50 days might seem odd to some, but for us, this is a time to let the Holy Spirit enliven our hearts to God’s goodness and to deepen our awareness of who we have become through Baptism.
That’s why right away, the Monday after Easter Sunday, the Church gives us St. Peter’s Pentecost proclamation to the crowd gathered in Jerusalem as the first reading at Mass. Peter speaks to them about Jesus of Nazareth who worked many deeds and was delivered up by God’s plan. He tells them that though killed, God raised Jesus, “and has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
The people hearing Peter are “cut to the heart” and ask the same question that was asked of John the Baptist: “What are we to do?” Peter tells them, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the Holy Spirit.”
The prophet Joel had foretold that from Mount Zion and Jerusalem, there would be a remnant whom the Lord will summon and to them will be preached the good news. Now we see this prophecy fulfilled as St. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, tells us, “about 3,000 persons were added that day.”
During the Easter Season, we celebrate that we too are among those who have been added. As I mentioned in my homily at the Chrism Mass, the Church is both a spotless Bride of Christ as well as a fragile vessel. Some people today find it easier to see the flaws of the Church and so the “task of the evangelist is to lift up the beauty so that its clear why intelligent, well-meaning people would put up with the ugliness, even give their lives to trying to eliminate it, in service of something much greater and more compelling” (Bishop Robert Barron, Mr. John Allen Jr., “To Light a Fire on the Earth, Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age”, p. 52). Our Easter Season celebration does just this. In “The Joy of the Gospel”, Pope Francis tells us: today, Christians must “appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet.” Our Easter Season celebration does just that. May you know the abiding presence of the Risen Lord this Easter Season and share the good news with others. Jesus Christ is truly risen as he said. Alleluia.
At the Chrism Mass our priests renewed their commitment to serving you, the faithful of this local church, in priestly ministry. I, as your bishop, then asked those present (and all the faithful) to pray for their priests. I again invite you to do so in a special way as we gather for our annual Spring Priests’ Days, April 16-18, 2018 in Bemidji.
The study, reflection and prayer for this year revolves around the theme: “A Bishop and His Priests Together: Claiming Our Common Sense of Purpose.” Father Ronald Knott, a priest of the Diocese of Louisville and founder of the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates at St. Meinrad School of Theology will lead us through the days which will include a look at such things as priestly spirituality, the Holy Spirit’s gift of presbyteral unity, and priests as spiritual leaders. I invite you to keep us in your prayers during these days; that they would be days of enrichment and renewal so that we might serve you all better.