Archbishop Leonard P. Blair
For those of us Christians who live in the Northern Hemisphere, the meaning of Easter that we will soon be celebrating is reflected in nature. After a dark, cold and often dreary winter, Easter comes in spring. The earth is about to be garlanded with new life, the song of birds, balmy breezes and lengthening daylight. Jesus used an agricultural image that evokes the cycle of the seasons: “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies it bears much fruit.” (Jn 12:24)
Christ is that grain of wheat laid to rest in the cold earth who springs forth to fullness and newness of life. His resurrection is the springtime of a new creation for you and me, and the whole human race. It is a springtime that takes us into eternity’s perfect day where we need not fear the heat or ever grow weary. As the Book of Revelation says so beautifully about the heavenly Jerusalem, there will be “no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (21:23)
At Easter, we give thanks for what the Eternal Father has done for us in raising his Son Jesus from the dead and sending the Holy Spirit to make us sharers in divine life. Christ’s rising — body and soul — is not for him alone: He is the firstborn from the dead, the first of many brethren.
At Easter, we renew our faith that, through the door of baptism, we too have entered into an eternal springtime with Christ; we have become his brethren in newness of life by water and the Holy Spirit. We renew our faith that this gift of the Holy Spirit has been perfected and strengthened in us through the sacrament of confirmation. And above all, we renew our faith that the risen flesh and blood of Christ is our very food and drink in yet another sacrament, the Most Holy Eucharist.
At the same time, we know, as St. Paul teaches, that on our earthly pilgrimage “we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7) What we celebrate in the Easter Gospel and in the Easter sacraments will only be fully revealed and made perfect when we pass from this world. In the meantime, Jesus says that to be his disciples we must take up our cross each day and follow in his footsteps. The dying and rising of the paschal mystery are one inseparable mystery, like two sides of the same golden coin. For the Christian, every sorrow, every trial, every defeat can be transformed by Christ into victory through faith, hope and love. Our inevitable crosses, lovingly accepted, can be carried with Easter joy.
This Easter 2019, our own personal crosses are overshadowed by the collective sorrows of a sinful world: the grief inflicted by international terrorism and war; the deprivation and poverty of so many people; the sufferings caused by illness, accident and natural disasters; and the pall that is cast over our Church by the grave sin and crime of clerical sexual abuse.
Any or all of these realities, not to mention our own personal sufferings, can make us question the power of Easter. They can rob us of Easter joy, weary us and dampen our faith, hope and love. The dramatic ups and downs of life may exasperate us and make us wonder: Will life’s winter ever give way to spring? Is there any hope of a resurrection on this way of the cross?
Speaking to the Church of his time, well over a century ago, the great English Cardinal, Blessed John Henry Newman, soon to be canonized, gave some timeless advice using the imagery of the changing seasons: “We mourn over the blossoms of May because they are to wither, but we know, withal, that May is one day to have its revenge upon November, by the revolution of the solemn circle which never stops — which is in our height of hope, ever to be sober, and in our depth of desolation, never to despair.”
In our height of hope, ever to be sober, and in our depth of desolation, never to despair. What a perfect motto for those who believe that Christ’s dying and rising constitute one inseparable mystery. Indeed, it is the mystery revealed by God himself to show our path in this world to the world to come. It is what Easter is all about.
Soon we will celebrate the springtime of Christ’s resurrection and the joy that no one can ever take from us. In anticipation, I wish each and every one of you, and all your loved ones, a very Happy Easter. Never doubt that this world’s winter, and even the winter of the Church, will inevitably give way to God’s eternal summer day.