By Bishop James Conley
Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
This is the good news that is heard around the world on Easter and settles in the heart of every Christian. The stone has been rolled away from the tomb, not just to let Jesus out, but to let his followers in. The miracle has already happened, Jesus is risen, but the disciples had to dare to enter the tomb to find the truth of divine light.
During this Holy Week, we have been celebrating the Paschal Mystery of Jesus—his suffering, his death, and his resurrection from the dead. It’s the great mystery by which we are redeemed, where we receive salvation. It has been a time to reflect on this mystery of God’s love for us.
All the people of the world were suffering from a great sickness—sin—handed on to us by our first parents. This illness caused our minds to be clouded, confused about what is true and what is false; what is good and what is evil.
Original Sin has weakened our hearts, or our wills, to desire what is not ultimately good for us. On April 15, Bishop Ronald Gilmore, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Dodge City, led a day of recollection for the priests of the Diocese of Lincoln before the Chrism Mass. Bishop Gilmore said that through sin, our first parents, “turned their backs on God and were broken in return. And they left their brokenness in their will for us.”
Sadly, sin is our inheritance. This is the plight of the world. But God, from the very beginning, came to our rescue. He could have saved us in variety of different ways, and yet he chose the most perfect way, but the one that would be the costliest to himself.
God the Father chose to send his Son, the Eternal Word, into the world through the power of the Holy Spirit and the through the consent of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the God the Son took on a human nature.
Our Heavenly Father worked gradually, leading up to the sending of his son. He built up his own people, the people of Israel, who would be a light to the gentiles. He called great leaders like Abraham, Moses and David, prophets like Jeremiah and Isaiah, who would foreshadow the coming of Christ.
And then, God enters the world in a non-descript way. He’s born in the tiny town of Bethlehem, in a manger. His foster father Joseph is a simple carpenter, who presumably would have taught Jesus his craft.
It’s not until he is in his 30s that we hear of Jesus working great wonders like the feeding of 5,000 people, healing the sick, and turning water into wine. In and through all of these great works, which grabbed the attention of the people of his time, he is teaching and he is guiding.
Throughout the Gospels, we hear about the enemies of Jesus and how they were plotting to kill him because he was a threat to them. This began with King Herod at the birth of Jesus and continued with some of the scribes and Pharisees.
Jesus knew of these threats and he met them with self-gift, with love. He came to serve, not to be served. He continued to trust his Heavenly Father and pour out his love.
We know that throughout his life, Jesus was always a man of prayer. He takes the time to talk to his Heavenly Father. He slips away from his apostles to spend this time in prayer. He is obedient to him. And due to his obedience, the Heavenly Father raised him up in resurrection.
The night that Jesus was arrested, he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, and he said to his heavenly Father, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me…” (Mt 26:39). He has a human nature after all. He knew the torment that he would go through. He was asking his Father permission for his ensuing suffering to be removed.
But, he and the Heavenly Father both knew that through his suffering many would be saved. And so the response of Jesus was, “not my will, by thy will be done.”
The Father resurrects the son from the dead, and in doing so, death is conquered through Christ. And through Christ, we can share in his resurrection. Through the resurrection, St. Paul’s boast is understood: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?... But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15: 55-57).
Easter is the greatest and happiest celebration that the world will ever know. The worst fear in the world—death—has been conquered, and we now have certain hope in eternal life in following Jesus Christ.
As Pope Benedict XVI said, “What is new and exciting in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, was and is that we are told: yes, indeed this cure for death, this true medicine of immortality, does exist. It has been found. It is within our reach.” The antidote to the sickness of sin and death is available to us all.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are challenged to a daily conversion of heart. Jesus is the remedy to the poison of sin within us. Through the grace of God and the example of Christ’s obedience to his Father, we, too, can wake up in the morning and pray “Thy will be done” and surrender to his will.
To be clear, this surrender is not the gospel that the world preaches. This is opposed to surrendering to what magazines tell us that we need to look like or do; surrendering to what Hollywood or the media say is the right way to live; surrendering to all kinds of social pressures that are based in nothing lasting, but only in what is en vogue.
Jesus promised us that “I have come so that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” If I believe that to be true, then it is a constant reformation and re-evaluation of my life. It means that I can’t find the abundant life anywhere else. And when I try to find it elsewhere, I find emptiness.
Surrender yourself to the will of God, and you will find blessing in this life, and you will share in the resurrection of Jesus in the next.
May the reality of Jesus’ love sink deeply into your hearts. He opened his arms on the cross, not because he was nailed there, but because he chose to fulfill the will of His Father to bring us redemption and the overflowing grace of divine life. May you experience the joy of this new life this Easter!