He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! That’s what we do here this weekend. That’s what we celebrate this weekend! That’s the central mystery of our faith. Jesus Christ has conquered death! He is risen! That’s the formula. That was the first message of good news, the first Gospel. That’s the cry that changed the world. That’s the message that the early Christians proclaimed even when persecutions came, even when it meant their oven lives. After all, if Jesus is risen and will take us with him, what in this would could we possibly have to fear.
Last year at Easter, we celebrated a very different sort of Easter, all in our homes, clutching our loved ones close out of fear. The whole world had just shut down for the first time in our lifetimes. We were facing an enemy that most of us had never faced. It wasn’t something we could see or touch. It was something invisible, that we couldn't find out if we had contact until 7-10 days later. The closest in anyone’s memory to a real pandemic was a polio in the 1940’s and 50’s, but even there, it didn’t spread just by physically being in a room with someone. So looking into the unknown, watching mass at home with our families, we embarked on what became the long Lent of 2020. Thankfully in our parish, I was amazed at the responses, watching the stream. Last year for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and The Easter Vigil we had over 300 people watching each day, more than we’d have normally had in Church for many of those services. We looked out at the unknown, and we took a step back from the world, but toward Jesus Christ. Though we all grow weary of the precautions and the risks and sometimes it seems like we’re not doing as much as we should be, we really are a different Church than we were a year ago. We’ve suffered through this long lent, and now as things are beginning to open up again, it finally feels like it’s time to celebrate Easter.
Just as Jesus rising from the grave tells us beyond any shadow of a doubt that he has conquered death, now we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic, but we’re looking at a very different world than the one we had before this all began. We’re looking at a world that’s truly in search of good news…and today we have that good news. His name is Jesus Christ! Now, in this Easter season, as we begin to see the darkness conquered by the light, it’s our job to go out as those first disciples did and spread that good news to all the world. A hundred years ago, we as a Church lead through the recovery that followed the 1918 Spanish flu. Today, right in our own backyard, it’s our own local Catholic College of St. Francis University who has been orchestrating the lion’s share of the vaccine distribution in our area. Our Church is working together to help overcome this darkness.
Yet, I think we all know that COVID isn’t the only darkness in our world. So many people are lonely with all of the social distancing this year has brought. So many feel isolated. So many are struggling with all sorts of issues that this pandemic has only exaggerated. So many people in the world right now are hurting. Today, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we realize we have a message of hope, a hope that cannot be crushed, not by sickness, not by death. We have a hope that is eternal. We have good news that even sickness and death has no power over the one we follow. As our world begins to open up, we’re called to let that light of Jesus Christ fill our hearts so completely that it simply has to overflow into our world. We must let the joy of the resurrection fill our hearts so that we can share that light with everyone we know. As we celebrate the resurrection, let each and every one of us take that light into our homes, our families, our schools, our workplaces. Let the light of Jesus Christ shine in every dark place, and let them see our joy. For that joy that cannot be crushed, cannot be stopped even in the face of death, is the power that once transformed the whole world. It can do it again, if we’re willing to carry that light out into our dark world.
Happy Easter . . . God Bless You All!
Father Matthew Baum is the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.