Easter – April 4, 2021
This is the day the Lord has made! … Welcome on this day of Resurrection that defines who we are as Christians. … Whether you are with me in our cathedral or joining us via CTV or social media, welcome to our Catholic family – and welcome to our friends from different religious and faith traditions, especially our Jewish brothers and sisters who celebrate Passover during these sacred days that we also treasure. … It is good that we are able to offer praise to God – together – in gratitude for the hope that is ours through Jesus’ resurrection.
With the entire Church of Scranton, we particularly give thanks today for 85 catechumens and candidates, who, despite the challenges of this past year, listened to the voice of the risen Lord speaking to their hearts and said yes to God’s invitation to be baptized and received into full communion in the Catholic Church. How blest we are by their presence and commitment to journey with us in faith.
Each one of the gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – begin in a similar way. Women, who were followers of Jesus, went to his tomb to anoint his body, journeying from their homes in the darkness before dawn. They had witnessed his torture and death. Their grief was mixed with pain, uncertainty and fear for themselves, their families and friends. Yet, despite the obstacles that they faced, they made their way to Jesus’ tomb.
Pope Francis reflected on the faith of these first believers. “In this situation, the women did not allow themselves to be paralyzed. They did not give in to the gloom of sorrow and regret, they did not morosely close in on themselves, or flee from reality. … They did not stop loving; in the darkness of their hearts, they lit a flame of mercy. … They responded to sorrow with trust in the Lord. … And then they met Jesus, the giver of all hope … who proclaimed: ‘Do not be afraid.’”
Through their encounter with the risen Jesus, the lives of those who ventured to his tomb were changed forever! Their lives were changed because God had redirected the course of human history through the resurrection of his Son. By embracing our humanity, Jesus not only gave us hope by identifying with us in his life, suffering and death. He also provided us a way forward amid the pain and struggles of our lives by defeating death through the power of the resurrection.
A year ago this Easter day, our world seemed to come to a crashing halt! Not unlike what was experienced by the first followers of Jesus, we were confronted with unexpected suffering and death. We were uncertain of how best to respond. We hid in our homes for fear of what we might experience, not just from strangers – but also from neighbors, co-workers and even those we love. For weeks, our streets were eerily empty. While our churches were closed, we prayed fervently that the wave of suffering enveloping our world might stop before it crashed into our lives.
Yet, even though our days were consumed with uncertainty, pain and confusion, we were all touched by the example of health care workers, first responders, clergy, women and men religious, essential workers, volunteers and so many others. They consoled us but, more importantly, they inspired us, didn’t they? Like the women who ventured to the tomb of Jesus on that first Easter day, these selfless souls would not allow themselves to be paralyzed. Instead, they worked tirelessly to keep the flame of hope burning in our lives.
And so did all of you! More than you might realize, you provided hope. In so many and different ways, you responded to the needs of others and you served generously and selflessly. You telephoned shut-ins. You delivered food. You helped teach your children and grandchildren. You shared from your bounty with those less fortunate. And you prayed! … You prayed like the two women who knelt outside of the doors of this locked cathedral a year ago as I celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in an empty church: a testimony of faith and trust in the power of God that I shared with you last Easter and that I will never forget!
In short, my friends, through your faith and belief in the resurrection of Jesus and all that it means in our lives, you made as your own the teaching of Pope Francis in his most recent encyclical letter, Fratelli tutti: “No one is saved alone; we can only be saved together.” This reality, my friends, that you and so many have lived and experienced especially during this past year, was born in an empty tomb in the initial moments of the life of our Church on that first Easter morning.
Just a few days ago, Pope Francis also reminded us of the power of the resurrection in the midst of the uncertainty of these days, “God is at our side in every affliction, in every fear; no evil, no sin will ever have the final word. God triumphs … through the wood of the cross.” Brothers and sisters, our very presence here today attests to this reality, doesn’t it?
This Easter Day, more than any other, reminds us that although wounded and broken, we are loved and we have reason to hope because Jesus has triumphed over sin and death. For such great gifts, may we simply give thanks. And may we trust that the risen Lord, who has won for us the fullness of life, will grasp hold of our hands and lead us to peace.