10 April 2017
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
Greetings of peace of the Risen Christ to all!
"The Risen Christ," that phrase that comes so easily to our lips this season is worth reflecting on. If we aren't startled and awed by it, we are not paying attention.
Consider the women who appear in Matthew's Gospel28: 1-10. That's the gospel, or "Good News" proclaimed from the
ambo on Easter. During the first day of the week the two women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, are the ftrst to reach the tomb and receive the news of the Risen Christ. It's not just anyone who tells them. It is an angel who counsels them, "Do not be afraid." The angel then sends them to share the great news. Matthew tells us they were "fearful yet oveljoyed." If it were me, I'm sure I would be petrified. I don't think I would be ftt to talk, let alone share the glad tidings.
To cap things, Matthew says that on their way to announce the news of the Risen Christ, the two women are met by Jesus and embrace him. Again he says, "Do not be afraid", and sends them off to tell the other disciples.
Think about it. These two women head to the tomb expecting to find a corpse, and instead find an angel and the Risen Lord. It is understating things a little, I think, for Matthew to say they had mixed feelings; that is they were fearful and oveljoyed. But shouldn't we also feel fear, joy and awe?
We all probably came to Easter service burdened to a greater or lesser degree with our own concerns, our own fears and struggles. Yet, as Christians, we are the co-inheritors of the miraculous gift of the Risen Christ. Jesus by his cross and resurrection triumphed over sin and death, and thereby opens the way for us to share that eternal life with him. At the very least, we should have left church Easter with renewed hope.
Of course, being human, it isn't as simple as that. We have heard the Easter message and believe it in our hearts and minds but there seems to be a struggle as we make a great effort to follow the message of the Risen Christ in a world that does not recognize him or his teaching.
It isn't just us. The disciples themselves struggled with this reality. We will hear in the Gospel on the Second Sunday of Easter that the disciples are gathered in a locked room for fear. Jesus response to their fear comes in his greeting, "peace be with you," and he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them. It is this same Holy Spirit that comes upon us in our baptism and confirmation. This encounter of the Risen Christ in these sacraments is very real but is very quiet and there is no big show. Our souls are filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord) which are very much alive and should give us great strength.
Of the Holy Spirit's gifts, let me single out one in particular to wish you this season. I pray you all to experience the strengthening gift of fortitude. With fortitude comes the courage to stand for good, avoid evil and say yes to Christ. As Jesus sent the two women and his other disciples to proclaim this Good News, he sends us into a world that requires great courage. We as individuals need great courage to walk daily with Christ to choose right over wrong even when it is not so popular. As families we need great courage to stand together against those things that can divide us. As parishes we need great courage to be united of one heart and mind as living witnesses of the Gospel in a morally confusing society.
This Easter, may our yes to Christ come forth with renewed courage, peace and love. I pray that the very breath of Christ, His Holy Spirit, will come like a mighty wind or a gentle whisper bringing joy to our hearts and minds, while also stilling all fear.
A most blessed Easter to all!
In the peace of the Risen Christ,
Most Reverend Chad W. Zielinski
Catholic Bishop ofNorthem Alaska
Diocese of Fairbanks