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Easter

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The resurrection of Jesus is a reality beyond doubt.  The liturgical season of Easter fills us with immense joy and profound hope.  However, each time we contemplate the gospel passages detailing the resurrection of Jesus we are faced with a sense of strangeness.

The barriers of time and space no longer apply to him.  The Lord appears and disappears with shocking suddenness.  He continually demonstrates his physical reality.  The Apostles and the disciples see him, hear him and eat with him.  Thomas is told to touch his wounds.  The stone rolled away from the entrance and the carefully folded burial cloths direct our gaze to the physical.  He has truly risen.

The disbelief and uncertainty evidenced by those who saw him testify to an apparent strangeness in the appearance of the newly risen Christ.  Slowly they came to recognize him, but they still struggled with doubt.

Their response shows us that although the risen Jesus is the same Jesus that died on Calvary. His physical reality is now different than before.  The body of the risen Lord is indeed his physical body, but he now moves about with a glorified body.

Repeatedly the gospels stress that something extraordinary has occurred.  The Lord is tangible, but he has been transformed.  His life is different from what it once was.  His glorified body transcends the limitations of time and space.  For this reason, he can pass through the closed door of the Upper Room.  He appears and disappears as he desires.

At times his disciples cannot recognize him precisely because their physical reality moves within time and space, and the Lord’s physical reality is no longer subject to time and space, although he exists within time and space.

The clarity of the physical reality of the risen Jesus provides us with the certainty of the existence of the Lord and the veracity of everything that he has taught us.  The empty tomb and the neatly folded burial cloths illustrate that redemption is not only for the soul, but for the body as well.

Applied to our practical daily living, the reality of the Risen Jesus fills us with profound peace.  There is no need to worry or to fear.  He is truly with us.  With Jesus, we know that we are journeying, not to the sunset, but to the sunrise.  We enter into a new relationship with God when we really believe that God is as Jesus told us that he is.  We become absolutely sure of his love.  We become absolutely convinced that he is above all else a redeeming God.  The fear of suffering and death vanishes, for suffering and death means going to the one God who is the awesome God of love.  In reality, our life long journey is a journey to the eternal Easter in heaven.

When we truly believe, we enter into a new relationship with life itself.  When we make Jesus our way of life, life becomes new.  Life is clad with a new loveliness, a new light and a new strength. When we embrace Jesus as our Lord and Savior, when we develop a personal relationship with him, we realize that life does not end, it changes and it goes from incompletion to completion, from imperfection to perfection, from time to eternity.

When we truly believe in Jesus, we are resurrected in this life because we are freed from the fear and worry that are characteristic of a godless life; we are freed from the unhappiness of a life filled with sin; we are freed from the loneliness of a life without meaning.  When we walk with Jesus and follow his way, life becomes so powerful that it cannot die but must find in death the transition to a higher life.

The bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead makes our entire journey to eternal life tangible, real, certain and credible.  Because Jesus is physically alive, his Church is visible.  Because Jesus is corporeal, the sacraments are visible aqueducts of his divine life.  Because Jesus physically transcends time and space, he remains with us in the Eucharist as the “medicine of immortality” (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1405). Because Jesus has truly risen from the dead and ascended to the Father, we await with joyful hope his return in glory.

The reality of the risen Jesus fills us with peace and consolation because he is truly with us.  His resurrection assures us of his final victory over evil.  The genuineness of Easter keeps us from worry, fear and discouragement.  It sustains us in times of trial and it opens the heart to the expectation of eternal life.

My dear friends, if we really believe that Jesus has risen from the dead, if we really are an Easter people, if we are truly who live the Gospel, how then are we to live our daily lives.

Charity is the one virtue that defines us as true Christians.  Charity is the greatest of all of the virtues.

Charity, like all the other virtues, is something very practical for our daily lives.

To do this we must take a close look at ourselves. As we examine our daily actions, we can ask ourselves these questions:  Have I been patient and kind to everyone?  Have I been arrogant and rude?  Have I been irritable?  Have I been harboring resentment against anyone?

Too many people in our contemporary society only live for themselves and too many people live from one mood swing to another.  Authentic Christianity is only possible when life our lives for others.

“I have been crucified with Christ, and I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2: 19-20).

Pope Benedict once said: “Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way?  If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that he might take something away from us?  Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful?  Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? … No!  If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what make like free, beautiful and great.  No!  Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide.  Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed.  Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation” (Holy at the Inaugural Mass of his Pontificate, April 24, 2005).

My dear friends, a healthy family life is the best way to develop the virtue of charity.   Interaction among family members takes place most frequently at the dining room table.  Families need to have dinner together every night.  Excessive involvement in sports and after school activities robs a family of the intimate social life that helps to keep families alive.

Aside from excessive activities, too much television viewing causes family members to isolate themselves into their own little shells.  This is particularly true when parents allow children to have their own television set in their bedrooms.

Another aspect of strong family life is a healthy social life.

Too many people are inaccessible to others.  Too many people are incapable of true friendship.

Christian charity is impossible if we do not even understand what it means to be a friend to someone.

Maybe we can begin to change the social atmosphere of our many of our cities and towns by being of good cheer wherever we may be, and respectfully greeting one another with proper social manners. The regular use of words such as “hello,” “good morning,”  and “thank you,”  need to be made a normal part of our public behavior.

Aside from all of this, there are other obstacles to the practice of the virtue of charity. Sad family situations can be very challenging to any kind of social life.  The tragedy of divorce and separation leave deep wounds in families that need to be healed.  Divisions in families over religion and moral values also cause deep wounds that may take years to overcome. The death of a family member may give rise to difficult situations. For example it is amazing how many families are torn apart by battles over a contested will or the custody of minor children.

There is never an excuse to hate anyone.  Even within these very difficult circumstances, we are called to heed the words of Jesus about forgiveness.  “But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5: 44).

Charity is the most essential virtue of Christianity.  Without this virtue, we cannot call ourselves authentic Christians.

How can we call ourselves Christian, if we are always impatient, angry, grumpy, selfish, resentful and mean?

A prayer that can help us live out this virtue in daily life is the well-known prayer of St. Francis.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.