By Pastor Julian Harris
But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name. (Jn 20:31) That is the promise, brethren—that by believing we might have life. Death will not have the final word over us, but love will call us forth to life. This is the life we touch when we experience Christ’s amazing love at Easter.
Easter is a vivid and lasting celebration of the promise of life after death. Like spring itself, Easter is a celebration of the rebirth of living things. It sustains us when we encounter harsh difficulties and tragic events in our lives. We believe that there is a better, more just and joyful life still to come. And, if we did not have that hope, then this life would be empty and the next life would be lonely, because Easter brings the unspeakable hope that we can again see, we can again be with that child or grandchild or a parent, a sister or brother or wife or husband who have slipped away from our grasp into eternity. The great orator William Jennings Bryan asked: If the Father deigns to touch with divine power the cold and pulseless heart of the buried acorn and to make it burst forth from its prison walls, will He leave neglected in the earth the soul of man, made in the image of his Creator? (The Prince of Peace) I am as sure that we live again as I am sure that we live today.
That hope, that promise of life after death, guides our behavior in the here-and-now. It reinforces the need to act not only in our own selfish interests, but also for the common good of humanity, else we be judged unworthy of Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross. I invite you to experience the love that loses itself to find us on Easter Sunday:
Man was made in the image of his Creator in the fact that, throughout the centuries, man has been willing to die, if necessary, that blessings denied to him might be enjoyed by his children, his children’s children and the world. The seeming paradox: ‘He that saveth his life shall lose it and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it,’ [Matt 10:39] has an application wider than that usually given to it; it is an epitome of history. Those who live only for themselves live little lives, but those who stand ready to give themselves for the advancement of things greater than themselves find a larger life than the one they would have surrendered. We win immortality, not by remembering ourselves, but by forgetting ourselves in devotion to things larger than ourselves. (Prince of Peace)
As priests, parents, grandparents and comrades we know the deep joy that comes from giving ourselves away to each other—to lay down our lives for the ones we love—and the blessedness of doing justice to Christ by ministering and serving those who, out of their own brokenness and bitterness, revile us for even trying: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 Jn 4:7)
Amidst our sacred celebrations there is a place for the traditional rites of spring. As the vernal equinox marks the turning of the seasons when light replaces darkness and warmth thaws hard ground and stiff joints, it is only natural for the young to frolic and the mature to become restless. Riots of blooms—tulips and daffodils and hyacinths—perfume the night and bird sounds of bird fill the day with a symphony to welcome the newly hatched. Vacationing students wash up on our beeches for loud music and 3-for-1 margaritas and spring sales lure the credit-happy. But the true rebirth Easter celebrates must never be swept away by the materialistic and hedonistic whirlwind of the pagan and secular.
The trend of recent years has been to strip every religious overtone from our calendar and from our schools and public place—thank God the Constitution of the United States protects my right to stand at the pulpit or to write about whatever I may please. Let it be my Catholic Religion. The Supreme Court, the Congress, not even the President cannot do anything about it. This is Easter, not Spring Break. I am not sure that the result of this trend—a nation more interested in consumption, salacious stories, sensational scandal, department store sales, junk television, and professional sports, than in church, community and family—is a happy one. I still believe that there is a deep wellspring of religious belief that sustains our Nations and our families as it does in the close-knit and caring community where I was born and raised and have the grace of living in today. Church was the focus of our town and community then just as St. Thomas More Church is the center for us today. That center must not break, least William Butler Yeats prophecy in The Second Coming become our legacy:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Our communities and families and alas, our parishes are slowly unraveling beneath the pressure of the Spiritus Mundi, (the spirit of the world or of this age), their weave frayed by casual greed, benevolent capitalism and picked apart by relativism and the dull stupor of drugs and violence. I worry that the clear-flowing waters of family, Church and community that nourished us and millions like us are becoming fouled and turbid.
Easter Sunday is not just a day to mark with brightly colored hard-boiled eggs or chocolate bunnies or with jellybeans and plastic grass in wicker baskets. All of these ancient symbols of spring and fertility and rebirth have their place, but it shakes me to think that children may know Easter only for its baskets and Easter egg hunts. Easter Sunday is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and a celebration of the only love, the love of Christ for His children that is stronger than death. So let us experience the Greatest Love the World has ever known in Holy Communion at Easter Mass.
Father Julian P. Harris, Pastor