From the Bishops Witnessing to the light of Easter

By now, most of you have packed Easter baskets away for next year, uploaded your photographs from family celebrations and maybe even eaten the last piece of Easter candy. However, did you realize that Easter is not just a one day celebration? Easter lasts for fifty days, the longest liturgical celebration in the Church year! While we commemorate Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, proclaiming “Alleluia” for the first time since before Ash Wednesday, the liturgical season continues until Pentecost. The Easter season, which we are currently celebrating, is not simply an arbitrary designation, but an opportunity to recognize the magnitude of Christ’s rising and our salvation.

One tangible reminder of the Easter Season is the exuberant presence of our new brothers and sisters in faith. It was with great joy that I baptized, confirmed, conferred First Communion and accepted men and women into our Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil. These men and women are truly witnesses to Christ’s words, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). We must also remember, however, that Christ is not only calling catechumens to a new life in Christ, but that He leads each of us to ongoing conversion and renewal. Like the catechumens who continue their formation even after the Easter Vigil, the Easter season is a fitting time for us to reflect on the true meaning of Christ’s Resurrection and the new life He has given us.

When the penitential season of Lent ends, most of us eagerly return to the things we sacrificed, be it sweets, television or other leisure activities. What does this have to do with living out the Easter season? It is appropriate that the Easter season coincides with Spring, when we see signs of budding life all around us. While the Lord brings about new life in His creation during this time, in a very particular way He calls us to renewed life in Him. Recall the parable of the man who sowed his seeds in rich soil; Christ tells us that “the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold” (Matthew 13:23). While Lent has indeed ended, it is in the Easter season that we see the fruit of our penance and prayer. If you volunteered during Lent as a penance, consider continuing to serve others in a spirit of thanksgiving for Christ’s presence in your life. Catholic Charities and other ministries such as the Gabriel Project are looking for dedicated volunteers. If you refrained from eating a particular food during Lent, perhaps you will choose to practice generosity by cooking that food to share with a friend or those in need. The entire liturgical year offers us ways to intensify our spiritual life by truly uniting with Christ in His suffering and now, in the joy of the Resurrection, by extending His love to others.

During the Easter Vigil, the Paschal Candle is lit and placed in a prominent place in the sanctuary. This light reminds us that Christ’s Resurrection has cast the darkness out of our lives and given us a reason for hope and rejoicing. Similarly, Christ teaches us that a light “is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:13). Let us be unafraid to witness to the light of faith in our daily lives. I ask you to unashamedly testify to your love of Christ through your charity towards others, your devotion to prayer and your willingness to share your faith.

On April 28, we honor the life-witness of a modern day saint, Saint Gianna Molla, who cooperated with God’s grace to bring about new life. A wife and a doctor in 20th century Italy, Saint Gianna’s love not only for her husband, but also for her patients, truly witnessed to the love of Christ. Due to complications in a pregnancy, Saint Gianna had to choose between saving her own life or that of her child. She sacrificed her own life so that her daughter could be born and she stands today as an exemplary model of Christian motherhood and a great defender of human life. Saint Gianna deeply understood the meaning of the Easter season — that through death, we come to life, that by receiving God’s love for us, we then pass on His love to others through selfless acts of care and compassion.

Take this opportunity to thank God for the graces He has given you and prayerfully consider how you can bring the light of His love to others. As Pope Benedict said in his Urbi et Orbi message, “Christ’s resurrection is a new creation, like a graft that can regenerate the whole plant. It is an event that has profoundly changed the course of history, tipping the scales once and for all on the side of good, of life, of pardon. We are free, we are saved!” (Pope Benedict XVI, Urbi et Orbi, Easter 2010). I pray that, like Saint Gianna Molla, we will witness to the true life that Christ brings into the world at Easter through the choices we make each day.

Printed with permission from the Arlington Catholic Herald.

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