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Pastor's Letter 20210404 - 04 April 2021 - The Lord has Risen Indeed! Alleluia!


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April 4th, 2021

Easter Sunday

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A Message from Father †Michael

Today’s Theme:   “The Lord has Risen, Indeed!”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

Our Reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 10:34-43,) is part of an early sermon of †Peter.  In it, he summarizes the ministry of Jesus, which culminated in His death.  But it didn’t end there; God raised Him to life, allowing Him to be seen by certain witnesses, Peter among them.  He goes on to declare that Jesus is the One—the Messiah—about Whom all the prophets spoke.

Many readings in the Easter Cycle instruct the newly-baptized on the Christian way of life.  Our Second Reading today (Colossians 3:1-4,) is a good example.  The Easter Season provides us with an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be baptized members of Christ’s Body.

Our Gospel talks about the discovery of the empty tomb (John 20:1-9,) along with the discarded linen cloths.  In itself, this is not a direct proof of the Resurrection.  Nevertheless, it was the first step towards establishing the truth that Jesus had escaped the bonds of death, and prepared the disciples to encounter the Risen Lord.

The Joy of Easter

We can’t appreciate the greatness of Jesus’ resurrection unless we acknowledge the full reality of His death.  Few of us relate in truly personal manner to the fact of the resurrection, except perhaps as a past event, whereby Jesus’ death on the cross was vindicated; and/or as a future blessing we hope to enjoy.  But the resurrection itself calls believers to recognize it as an integral aspect of our daily lives.

As the Gospels reveal, even Jesus’ contemporaries did not anticipate His resurrection; each of the resurrection narratives contains evidence that His disciples had despaired of Him as the long-awaited Messiah.  Even when the empty tomb was discovered, no one concluded that Jesus had risen.  Indeed, had the empty tomb been the only phenomenon surrounding Jesus’ death, it certainly could not have become the basis for the Christian faith in the resurrection.

When Mary discovered the tomb was empty, she ran off to report what she thought to be foul play:  “The Lord has been taken from the tomb; We don’t know where they have put Him” (v.2.)  Although the account of the empty tomb was recorded in all four Gospels and was an early tradition, it was not included in the earliest testimony to Jesus’ resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5.)  Christian faith in Jesus’ victory over death is rooted in the appearances of the risen Lord to His followers.

For those who believed in Jesus as risen by virtue of His appearances to them, the ambiguity of the empty tomb was resolved.  However, the narratives of the empty tomb helped to explain the reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection; and in that the same Jesus, Who had walked and talked; broken bread with them; and had died and was buried.  He was the same Christ, Who was alive and ever present to them thereafter.   [From the earliest centuries of Christian faith, skeptics—even Christian skeptics—have suggested that the resurrection appearances were fabricated by the disciples, who were disappointed at the death of their Leader.  In the face of such skepticism, Paul stated, “If Christ is not risen from the dead, our preaching is empty; your faith is worthless; and we are the most wretched of people” (1 Corinthians 15:9.)]

By virtue of His resurrection, Jesus became the norm for the relationship that will culminate in our own resurrection.  To celebrate Easter is to remember that Jesus lives; we rejoice in the fact that because of Him we also live today, and for an eternity of tomorrows.

Jesus died in darkness.  But He trusted enough in God to face the darkness, and to wait for the resurrection.  His leap of faith was not in vain. The Father raised Him up.  The Scriptures and the early Church seldom said, “Jesus rose from the dead.”   Rather, they said, “God raised Jesus from the dead.”  Jesus, too, had to make that leap of faith, that each of us will be called upon to make one day.

Jesus entered the dark kingdom of death, and emerged victorious.  He had won His victory—He had conquered death.  But that victory must become a reality in us, His disciples. His victory was won in our nature.   If the battle had not been fought and won in our nature, we would be incapable of profiting from His victory—we would still be under the power of death.

The resurrection itself was never in doubt—God cannot die.  But the surprise and gift of Easter is that the resurrection is for us, too.  Jesus has been raised in our flesh and blood.  It is our death that has been defeated.  

As we mature, we become increasingly conscious of our mortality, and our inevitable journey towards death.  Death constitutes a huge challenge to our faith, for we can only see beyond death as through a darkened glass.  But because of Easter Day, we can breathe the pure air of everlasting life.  Occasionally, the forces of darkness may seem overwhelming, but the victory has already been won for us.  We must trust that victory, and not live as we are dominated by death.

To be a Christian is to be a person of hope, because of what happened on that “third day.”  But Christian hope is not mere superficial optimism, based on a refusal to look at the facts.  Rather, it comes from a deep trust in God.

Good Friday, a day of darkness and death, comes to everyone.  And so does Holy Saturday, a day of emptiness and sorrow.  On such days it is difficult to believe.  But Easter Sunday, a day of life and joy, will come as surely as the dawn. Then it will become evident to us that death, the last enemy, has been overcome.  

For all of us, there are some experiences we might term, “little deaths.”  These are a foretaste of death, that spring from living in bitterness, loneliness, sadness and despair.  In such instances, the world closes in on us, and we seem to have “one foot in the grave,” as it were.  But we also experience “little resurrections,” when we know love, acceptance and forgiveness; when we open our hearts to others and to life.  Then the world opens up to us and we emerge from our “tombs.”    

Lord, may the splendor of Your resurrection scatter the shadows of death, and enable us to walk in radiant hope, towards the Kingdom where there are no more shattered hopes or broken dreams. May the Lord, in His goodness, open our minds and hearts so that we may believe the Good News of His victory over death. In His love for us, God draws us outwards into the unknown, the beyond, the infinite and the eternal. We go forward more confidently and hopefully because Jesus, our Brother, has gone ahead of us.  

May God Richly Bless You!

“Easter is a time to rejoice; be thankful; be assured that all is forgiven; To realize life extends beyond the soil of earth.”

~~Byron Pulsifer-Author~~

To view a live stream of today's Holy Mass, click here:  https://youtu.be/MXjgDM0oMBQ

 

Christ the Lord has Risen Today!.docx

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