Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Easter Sunday: Now We Remain
The Forty Days are over. We have joined the Lord in preparing for the momentous change. The Paschal Sacrifice is complete. The Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lamb of God has been carried out. The tomb is empty, Mary Magdalene. The tomb is empty, and now we remain.
The transformation has begun. The flowers symbolize the New Life that has come to the world. Jesus Christ lives! He is Risen. We live. We don’t just have physical lives. We have spiritual lives. The Father raised Jesus from the dead. The Father and Son have given their Spirit to all who have a living faith in Jesus Christ.
Still, we cannot and will not forget the events of Holy Week. The passion and death of our Lord are as much a part of us as His resurrection.
Brothers and sisters:
Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
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.
This is from the Sixth chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. It is the first New Testament reading of the Easter Season. It tells us that the Paschal Event is a living reality, one in which we participate. Evil has lost its grip on the world. The devil has been defeated.
We are united to Jesus Christ. The tomb is empty. But we remain. The Second Letter to Timothy tells us that if we have died for the Lord we shall live with the Lord. Back to Romans 6, we must think of ourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Soon we will be receiving the Eucharist. What is it that we are doing when we receive communion? We are taking the Lord within us, yes. But there is more than this. When we receive communion, we are one with Christ’s suffering and death. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes,” we read in 1 Corinthians 11. And we radiate the joy of the Lord. “I want you to share in our joy,” St John writes at the beginning of his first letter. We proclaim the death and resurrection of the Lord. We want the whole world to share in our joy. We need the world to share in our joy.
There are so many people who long for this joy. There are people who are suffering from insufficient food and medicine in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, and, yes, in the United States. When Catholic Relief Services or the Catholic Campaign for Human Development gives them food and medicine and the knowledge and tools to provide for their future, these people don’t just eat, nor are they just healed, they experience the Lord present in the aid workers.
There are many poor people in the United States. Many of them are single mothers or single fathers. They wonder how they can care for their children with such limited incomes. When they experience members of the community reaching out to them, making sure their children are treated the same as all the other children, helping them when they need emergency baby sitting, etc, these people don’t just have immediate problems solved, they experience Jesus Christ present in their neighbors, friends and sometimes, in total strangers. Then they realize that there are no strangers in the Body of Christ.
There are many people who are facing serious challenges to their health, or worse, to that of one of the children. When doctors, nurses, hospice workers, and all medical personal care for them with the love of the Lord, the sick don’t just benefit from expertise, they experience the healing hands of Jesus Christ working through others.
There are many people who feel pushed to the fringe of society. Others seem to tolerate them, but don’t really accept them. But when they walk into a Church and people welcome them as members of the praying community, they realize that they are welcomed by Jesus Christ.
And there are those who have been devastated by sin, be it their own sin or that which was thrust upon them by others. Maybe they seem trapped in the gutters of our society. Perhaps substance abuse has forced them into self-destructive lives. Maybe they are in prison. Maybe they have committed crimes that merited punishment by society. There are many people who are convinced that they are drowning in evil. They wonder if there is any hope for them. When people reach out to them and tell them that Jesus died for them, and wants to share His Life with them, they find the Lord in those who radiate His compassion.
What does it mean to be a Catholic? Rites and rituals, beautiful liturgies, prayer groups and classes to help us understand our Lord, ministries for all ages, all these aspects of our faith are wonderful, but even taken together they do not make a person Catholic or the Church Catholic. To be Catholic is to be universal. The very word Catholic mean universal. We are Catholic when we are so united to Jesus Christ that His death and His life radiate through every action of our lives. You see, we are not Catholic for ourselves. We are Catholic for others.
The forty days are over. The transformation is upon the world. Jesus Christ has risen. But the tomb is empty. And now we remain.