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'Let us rejoice and be glad'

Archbishop Wenski's column for the April 2019 edition of the Florida Catholic

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“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!” The shame and despair of Friday is replaced by the joy and brightness of Easter morning.

The tomb is empty. Peter along with John — and Mary Magdalene — were the first witnesses. They see the burial cloth of Jesus folded neatly to the side and they see and believe. Later, their belief will be ratified when they see the Risen Lord.

The Easter cover for the Florida Catholic and La Voz Católica's April 2019 editions is an original painting by South Florida artist Noris Capin.

Photographer: Noris Capin

The Easter cover for the Florida Catholic and La Voz Católica's April 2019 editions is an original painting by South Florida artist Noris Capin.

Christ is risen — and his resurrection from the dead casts a decisive light on all that preceded it. Now, in the light of the Resurrection, Jesus’ words and the words of the prophets who preceded him are understood with a new clarity; his miracles through which he healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and even raised the dead, even his boldness in forgiving sins, acquire an even greater significance. The cross, once rightly regarded as an instrument of cruel torture and shame, is now revealed as the Tree of Life: From now on we understand that in embracing the cross we are not robbed of life, but we find true life. Life is redeemed — for all its sorrows, pains and disappointments, life has meaning. For Easter convinces us not only that Jesus is risen — but that we would rise as well.

Because he is risen, Jesus is not just a character from a far distant past. He is not remembered in the same way as the great men and heroes who lived long ago are remembered. We might talk about them — and about their deeds. But we cannot talk to them or befriend them. Jesus, however, is the same yesterday, today and forever: He lives. Having broken the chains of death, he walks before us as one who is alive —and he calls us to follow him, the Living One, and to enter into a relationship of friendship with him. In this way we discover the path of life, a life that is always new because it will never die.

Our Christian faith is born not so much from the acceptance of a doctrine but from an encounter with a person — with Christ, once dead but now alive. The same Christ who encountered the women who came to the tomb; the same Christ who gave his peace to the apostles cowering in the Upper Room; the same Christ who revealed his pierced hands and side to Thomas is the same Christ who encounters us today in Word and Sacrament.

In the gift of Easter lies the demand of Easter: “If you were raised with Christ seek what is above,” St. Paul tells us. Jesus’ whole life was shaped by his obedience to his Father and thus for us to be “raised in Christ” means that we will never allow the things of this world to distract us from the true purpose and goal of our existence. We must seek to do God’s will in all things — even in the seemingly most mundane things. But doing God’s will, following the commandments, does not deprive us of joy. It is what makes true joy possible.

As Christians still living in the world, we will experience all manner of trials and tribulations. The sufferings of Christ do not exempt us from suffering ourselves; but his sufferings seen in the light of his Resurrection give meaning and hope to our own. And so even suffering does not take away our joy in the future promise of our own Resurrection.

Joy should define us as Christians; for joy is a sign that we have been with the Lord. And this joy comes from knowing God in his Son, Jesus Christ. It comes from experiencing his mercy and grace and having a share in his divine life. Our witness to the Resurrection will be that much more credible if it is joyful — our joy allows God to smile through us and thus helps restore hope to our brothers and sisters.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!”

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