In the events of that first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene believed that she had lost everything when Jesus died. The Gospel tells us that, when Jesus died, Mary Magdalene stood at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and John, the beloved disciple, as the dying Jesus entrusted his mother and John to each other. She witnessed first hand the brutal death on the cross of one that she loved so much. We do not know why it was that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb alone that first Easter. Was it that she and the other women had agreed to meet there? Was it that she wanted to be alone for a while? Perhaps she wanted to spare Jesus’ mother the agony of seeing her son’s body before it was completely prepared for burial, for those preparations had been interrupted by the onset of the Sabbath.
Her journey was solitary but also risky. Guards protected the tomb lest any of the disciples tried to remove his body. The soldiers might not allow her access. Yet, Mary Magdalene was the first witness of the resurrection. Her unexpected news was far beyond the imagining of any of the apostles. Peter and John wanted to verify her story for themselves. It was only when they entered the tomb of Jesus that they realized the truth of the resurrection.
Even while we praise our Lord for the gift of His defeat of the Evil One, we know that there are many battles that lie ahead for us who have chosen to join our alliances to Christ and His Church. Our own personal experience shows us that living the life of Christianity does not mean that we will not struggle. Rather, we can expect to encounter resistance from the world around us and challenges from the Devil, also called the “prince of the world,” when we choose to live our lives according to the Gospel. Jesus does not leave it at that, for He offers us words of great hope, telling us: “Take courage, I have conquered the world.”
We are invited to have this same courage when confronted with the battles that lie ahead of us, for by His death and Resurrection, which we celebrate today, He has overcome the world and every possible obstacle that could be placed in our way. We, who have been baptized in Christ, have died to our old way of life and have risen to share in His divine life, becoming heirs of the promise that we, too, will one day share in the victory of eternal life.
In the battles that the people of Israel faced from their enemies and the struggles they had among themselves, as we read in the Old Testament, God demonstrated time and again that He would continue to fight for them and give them the help that they would need, just as He did when He freed His people from slavery in Egypt, parting the Red Sea and providing a way out of their tribulation.
Every generation can count on that same promise that, no matter what the trial, God will provide a way to safety. Every generation has been in need of this reminder of God’s protection and ultimate victory, for there has never been a time in which no challenges to the Christian way of life were present. Even the experience of the early Church, which we hear about in detail throughout the Easter Season in the Acts of the Apostles, was one of constant trial. But, it was the victory won on Easter Sunday that gave them the strength to keep from backing down in the face of what seemed to be impossible odds.
When times seem bleak for Christians, in general, and the Catholic Church in particular, the Easter message of victory is never extinguished. Just as the light of the Paschal Candle pierced the darkness of the night and leads us forward at the Easter Vigil, so too does our faith in the power of Christ lead us on through the dark stretches of history, past, present, and future. In our own day, we are just as much in need of that message of hope as any other time in history.
Earlier this month, we heard of the shocking news of the killing of 4 Missionaries of Charity in Yemen, on the Arabian Peninsula (Bl. Teresa of Calcutta’s order). This is just one incident in the recent rash of violence against Christians in our world, particularly in the Middle East and parts of Africa. Such sobering reports leave us with a great sense of sadness and even fear.
In addition to the various forms of physical violence against Christians, we have many examples of ways in which our Catholic and Christian values are being attacked in our world through unjust laws and attitudes which chip away at the foundations that had, at one time, been so solidly established. Finally, there are the many adversities that we may face in our individual lives, such as sickness or other personal setbacks, which can tempt us to question or even doubt our faith. It can be easy to be pessimistic and without hope in the face of so many trials that confront us, and it is for that reason that we need the Good News of Jesus’ Resurrection to shake us out of our preoccupation with focusing on the shadow of the Cross in order to see the glory of the empty tomb.
The words of St. Augustine, from 1500 years ago, are every bit as applicable to us today as they were then when he wrote that: “We are an Easter people, and ‘alleluia’ is our song.” We are invited to be that Easter people who are always mindful that Christ has already won the victory for us. Knowing that, we can have the courage to fight our battles, confident that at the end of our journey, we too will share in that victory. We Christians are an Easter people who are united with the Risen Christ, and who celebrate with great joy this definitive day of victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and life over death, for all eternity. May God give us this grace! Enjoy a blessed and hope-filled Easter (and don’t eat too many Easter eggs!)!
We welcome you to join in the official parish celebration marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of our parish. It will begin with a Mass at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 10th, celebrated by Bishop Barbarito, and be followed by a lovely luncheon in the parish hall. All parishioners are invited to this luncheon, free of charge, compliments of our parish. A free-will offering will be appreciated to cover the cost of the meal. This is the only official anniversary celebration sponsored by the parish. Any other type of celebration, such as any “Legacy” celebration, is not sponsored by or affiliated in any way with the parish. This should help avoid confusion. See you at our BIG celebration!