I can hardly believe that Easter is right around the corner. It has been a busy and exciting Lent. With the resignation of Benedict XVI and the election of our new Pope, it is an amazing time in the Church.
What a relief it was, coming home after a long day at work, to pick up the paper and read, not another negative article about the church, but a refreshing headline that seemed to indicate the world is going to embrace our new Pope.
What perfect timing, I thought, as we are embarking on the implementation of the New Evangelization. It feels like spring is in the air and the breeze blowing in is surely the Holy Spirit at work.
I think the hearts of the faithful are poised to be opened wide and flooded with a newness of life we haven’t seen in a long time. As I tell our candidates and Elect who are entering the church at Easter Vigil, the church simply does not need more lukewarm Catholics. Now is the time for increased, active, prayerful participation by everyone who calls themselves a Catholic.
To be a Catholic today will require a level of commitment that most of us have not had to make. The challenges to the message of Christ in a culture filled with misinformation, misunderstanding and a too-oft desire for scandal, will surely require Christians everywhere to live out their faith with increased awareness of the cost of discipleship.
To prepare ourselves for the future, we will need a passion for the Gospel and a deep love of God. It will need to be evident in the way we live our lives, in the choices we make, and in the words we use. We will find ourselves explaining why we love the sacramental life of the church and will likely need to defend the teachings of the church, as well as make clarifications against the heresies of our time.
This is a time when, rather than blending in, Christians will need to stand out. As Catholics, we do so every time we come together to celebrate the Liturgy, because it speaks of our belief in the Incarnation and the resurrection of Christ.
As we approach the highest holy days of the year, I’d like to share with you an analogy I came across in a book by Robert Wilken titled, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought.
In thinking about Good Friday and the Veneration of the Cross, an outsider might ask us, Why would you hold up a cross that has been buried in church storage for the past year and genuflect before it or kiss it?
According to Wilken, in the same way that someone, in the depths of grief over the loss of a loved one, might touch their clothes or smell their lingering fragrance in their longing to recapture their physical presence, “the faithful kissed the wood of the cross that held the precious body of Christ.”
It is not unusual for the faithful, in their desire to be close to Christ, to reach for that which is tangible in an effort to draw closer to him.
On Holy Thursday, as we open the three highest holy days of the year with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we will recall Christ washing the feet of his disciples as members of our community sit at the feet of our Priests to have their feet washed.
This action by Christ speaks to each of us and our call to be servants. Some of us may be called to be leaders, it is true, but true leadership cannot happen without a servant’s heart. One day, Christ tells us, we will be able to sit at the heavenly table, but for now, we serve.
At the Easter Vigil, on the Saturday evening before Easter, we see a most magnificent display of beauty as we enter the darkened church. In great symbolism, our lighted candles pierce the darkness with the light of Christ. Hope is present and victory over sin is evident!
We welcome those who have said Yes! to God’s calling by stepping forward for Baptism or the other Initiation Sacraments. They are supported by the community’s prayers and it is the presence of the community that affirms their decision. The faithful of the community, gathered for the Vigil, is an essential part of this Liturgy and speaks volumes to the Candidates and Elect.
Would you leave your house when your invited guests are due to arrive? Of course not! You would greet them at the door, as we greet our newest members at the Baptismal font on Easter Vigil.
If you have never participated in these Holy Days, I encourage you to do so this year as much as possible. They are the capstone of Lent, indeed, of our life as a Catholic.
Copyright 2013 Janet Cassidy