REMINDER: No Mass on campus this afternoon. Masses at St. Mary's this morning are at 9:00 and 11:00am.
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Alleluia, He is risen! Alleluia!
The great Lent is now over; through the liturgy of the Church we have all now experienced Christ's suffering, death and burial. And today we experience the empty tomb, and the risen Christ. Alleluia.
Reflecting back on this Lent, we can think of all the sacrifices we made, the little things we have given up, and wonder what was the point of it? Did giving up desserts make me a better person? (Or was I secretly just trying to lose five or ten pounds?) Did giving up Facebook teach me anything? Are we excited about Easter so that we can now drink coffee again, or otherwise indulge in whatever we chose to fast from this Lent? Or shouldn't there be more to it?
Why do we bother making these little sacrifices at all, which compared with the sacrifice of Christ seem so trivial and insignificant? What is the point of this self-denial? Is it simply to help build discipline? Or is it meant to be a penance for our sins? Yes, at least partly, on both counts. But there is a greater point, all too easy to miss, yet essential to the meaning of Easter.
Most years, we decide what sort of Lenten sacrifice we are willing to make. But sometimes we find ourselves making sacrifices not of our choosing. This year, just before Holy Week, my family learned that we had lost a loved one well before his time. A beloved nephew of mine was killed quite unexpectedly in a freak accident while practicing baseball at his school. It was and is a tragedy that broke the hearts of their entire community as it has broken the hearts of our family. This is not a sacrifice any of us would have ever chosen.
For me, this year, Holy Thursday was spent at the grave side of an innocent child. Good Friday was spent in mourning. And to top it all off, Holy Saturday was spent flat on my back with an intense, but mercifully short, case of food poisoning. One is reminded of the famous quote from St. Teresa of Avila, "Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, it is no wonder You have so few!"
None of this is anything that I would have ever chosen to experience, and that is rather the point. We live in a fallen world. It is a wild and untamed existence and the only guarantee is death. That death does not always come peacefully in your bed during old age. It does not always come with a warning. There is nothing we possess in this life that cannot be taken from us against our will at any moment. That includes little pleasures, of the sort we typically give up for Lent. But that also includes things like nephews and nieces, sons and daughters, parents, spouses, and friends. It includes our own health, and indeed our own lives. We cannot cling to any of these. We can put our hope in none of these. We can love them. We can value them. We can appreciate and enjoy the time we have with them. But we will at some point have to let them go, often all too suddenly.
The sacrifices we make during Lent, whether great or small, are to help us learn detachment. They are to help us remember that there is but One Thing that we can possess which cannot be taken from us against our will, and that is God.
This is what Easter teaches us. Christ is the One who has conquered death. God came to earth to become one of us so that He might take upon His shoulders all the suffering and loss of the whole human race, the terrible consequences of the fall caused by the sin of man. He bore that burden for us all the way to death. He smashed through the barrier of death and decay and came through the other side victorious. And we shall, too, if we but cling tightly to Him, the one Person who can never be taken from us against our will. Christ is the only One we must cling to.Brothers and sisters: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with Him in glory (Col 3:1-4).
This is why God has given Him the name above all other names. This is why to Him alone we must bend our knee. This is why we must love our neighbors as ourselves - because both neighbor and self can be lost - but why we must love God with all our hearts and minds and souls. Because in the end He is all that we have; but in having Him, we have everything. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end. Christ is both the source and the summit. He is all in all.
Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
"The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus' resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you."
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!