The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 21, 2000 Issue
Bishop Morneau's Column
"Reflection on the Readings"

Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop Robert Morneau

The language of the Easter mystery

Our faith gives us answers to whether or not death triumphs over life

April 23, Easter Sunday

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Questions for Reflection:

1.What questions do you wrestle with?

2.What is your knowledge of the language of faith?

3.What does Easter mean to you?

Way back in February I read an article written by Alice McDermott entitled: "Confessions of a Reluctant Catholic: Portrait of a novelist." (cf. Commonweal, Feb. 11, 2000, pp. 12-16). McDermott tells of being raised Catholic, drifting from the Church, and eventually returning to become a practicing Catholic.

As a novelist, McDermott deals with the large questions of life. She came to realize that her Catholic faith provided both a language to raise these questions and also provided answers to those questions.

Here is a central paragraph from the lengthy article: "Time and again I discovered for myself, if not always for my characters, that the promises of faith, of Christ, gave perfect answers to the questions my own work had raised. Proceeding blindly, walking on air, I had come to see a pattern emerge. I had come to see that the life of Christ, the Son of God whose death redeemed our lives, redeemed from absurdity our love for one another, made of our existence a perfect, artistic whole that satisfied, in a way that great art could only briefly satisfy, our hearts' persistent, insatiable need for meaning, for redemption." (p. 15)

The Easter mystery gives us a language to talk about life and death; the Easter mystery gives answers to that deep, deep question as to whether or not death triumphants over life. In the risen Jesus we believe that love is stronger than death, that light will conquer the darkness, that life cannot be snuffed out by the tomb.

Because of the mystery of faith all of life has taken on immense value. Alice McDermott comments: "The incredible notion of the Redemption, the incredible notion of God made flesh, of one solitary human being, one ordinary death out of the billions of ordinary deaths the earth has witnessed, changing forever the fate of mankind, cannot be sustained, cannot logically be sustained, if any single life forever after becomes expendable. . . If any one life can be dismissed as meaningless, so too can the life of Christ." (p. 16)

Easter gives us another opportunity to commit ourselves to the sacredness and dignity of all human life. Protecting and promoting the life of the unborn, fighting against the popularity of the death penalty, fostering respect for human sexuality - these moral issues take on new significance as we witness what our God has done for us in Jesus. Life is sacred! Life is holy! Life is eternal!

So many, like Alice McDermott, have drifted from the faith but, unlike her, have not returned. She states in her article: "My brothers never did return to the church." Could one of the reason be that we who have stayed in organized Catholicism and practiced our faith have not given Easter witness? Do we witness the joy and peace of the Gospel? Is our faith in Jesus observable in how we related to fellow workers, how we earn and spend our money, how we live in a consumeristic society?

The big questions will not go away; questions of our identity and destiny, questions of how to live on this fragile planet earth, questions of morality, immortality? Our faith, grounded in the Easter mystery, gives us a language to ask the questions and our faith gives us answers to those questions. We need not buy into the skepticism or agnosticism of our times because Jesus is alive, he is risen, he is among us now.

(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)

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