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Bishop Banks'

 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinApril 18, 2003 Issue 

Keep war in mind as we celebrate Easter

War in Iraq says something about Easter and Easter says something about the war

My dear friends in Christ,

Bishop Robert J. Banks
Bishop Robert J. Banks

As I write this message, my prayer is that the conflict in Iraq will have ended by the time we celebrate Easter Sunday. My prayer is also for all the families who lost loved ones in that struggle.

 • Easter-related articles

But in any case, we cannot forget the war as we celebrate Easter this year. The war says something about Easter and Easter says something about the war. The images that have been on TV for 24 hours a day, seven days a week are too fresh and too vivid.

The war reminds us that the first Easter was in many ways just a truce. The violence that we saw on Calvary would begin again when believers began to preach Jesus. Stephen was the first to fall, stoned to death by good people defending their faith. The Gospel message has continued to meet opposition even into our own time, sometimes from the violent and sometimes from the sophisticated and sometimes from both.

This tells us that the Easter victory is for now mainly a victory of the spirit and the Spirit. The believer has from the Spirit of Christ an inner strength, confidence and even joy that can overcome anything. You meet this kind of victory reading the story of today's heroes like Abp. Nguyen Van Thuan who spent 13 years in a Communist prison, nine in solitary confinement. You meet it visiting your sick friends in the hospital as they cope with sickness and frightening diagnoses.

The final victory over sin, violence and death will come when Jesus returns in glory. The hope of that final victory, perhaps millennia from now, still has the power to brighten the Easter Sunday we celebrate this year.

And what does this Easter tell us about war? It certainly should remind us that the human heart wants peace more than war. There are very few, if any people who are happy because we are at war. But there are things that can be judged worse than war, all of them the creation of sinful hearts: oppression, cruelty, and savage injustice. The answer to the sinful heart is the reconciliation and renewal that come from faith and the Holy Spirit.

So on each Easter we do not simply celebrate or commemorate a wonderful event that happened 2,000 years ago on a Sunday morning in Palestine. We rejoice in what has happened to us because of that first Easter: the Spirit given, new life received. We pray at the Easter Mass that the celebration this year may further serve to "raise us up and renew our lives by the Spirit that is within us." Renewed hearts are the way to peace.

It is our hope that with the cessation of hostilities our troops will be able to help build a lasting peace in that tormented country. The Easter celebration reminds us that the way to peace lies in those things that are characteristic of the Spirit given by Jesus on the first Easter: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

May this Easter celebration be a time of grace and blessing for all of us and especially for loved ones who may be in harm's way.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Robert J. Banks,
Bishop of Green Bay, Wis.

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