Dear brothers and sisters,
Let us rejoice for Christ has risen! This Sunday we celebrate Easter, Christ’s triumph over death and the promise of eternal life given to us. While reflecting on Christ’s life, death and resurrection during this Holy Week, we have been reminded that after every darkness comes light, after every winter comes springtime. As Venerable Fulton J. Sheen once said, “Unless there is a Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday.”
Each of us has experienced winter times — dark and cold times — when life feels unfair and difficult; times when we have suffered like Christ, who bled and died for us on the cross. We have also experienced a winter in our church and our country. During these times, God is in our midst and hope remains. Soon, daffodils bloom, healing begins, war ends, and those who have strayed from the church find faith once again. Good triumphs over evil, love over hate, and courage over fear. We are cleansed from sin. We are renewed. Faith is alive!
Our hope comes from our Easter story. Imagine the immense joy of the disciples when Jesus appeared to them in Jerusalem and they realized he had risen from the dead. “… [H]e stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have'” (LK 24:36-40). We have heard this story so many times throughout our lives that sometimes we forget how truly miraculous it is.
In an encyclical letter “Redemptoris Missio,” (Latin for “Mission of the Redeemer”), Blessed John Paul II reflected on the concept of springtime, writing that, “As the third millennium of the redemption draws near, God is preparing a great springtime for Christianity, and we can already see its first signs.”
Indeed, our first signs have arrived. With hearts full of gratitude, we will welcome almost 300 people from our diocese to the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil. We are also continuing in our efforts of the new evangelization to welcome back many who have left the church.
We have been reenergized by our new Holy Father who brings with him many firsts. He is the first pope from Latin America, the first Jesuit pope and the first pope to choose the name Francis. Pope Francis is truly witnessing to the work and life of St. Francis of Assisi, his namesake. St. Francis of Assisi held a special place in his heart for the most vulnerable among us — the poor, the elderly, the forgotten, the weak — just as Pope Francis who follows him.
Let us heed the call of the new pope, to protect creation and those considered the “least among us.” Let us renew ourselves in our faith during this season of spring.
I extend my blessings to each of you and your families and pray that you may experience the peace of the risen Christ in your hearts and homes.