Every year we celebrate Easter. But this year is extra-special, because we actually get to attend Easter Mass once again. I would have never imagined I would live through a time when public Masses were suspended, and especially not at Easter time. It felt like Easter was being canceled.
Far from it! Not only was Easter not canceled, but it was wonderful in its own unique way. No, I wasn’t able to preach to a church full of people and then have an Easter dinner with my family. But more than 200 people attended my live-stream Easter Sunday Mass. I was able to have a meal with a local family and a virtual Zoom gathering with my biological family, even those I probably wouldn’t have seen. By the end of the evening, three different meals had been dropped off at my house. I remember reflecting back on how much the day was full of God’s blessings. Yes, it was a suffering and a sacrifice, but good things happened because of those sacrifices. What were some of the surprising blessings you experienced at Easter last year?
God has a knack for bringing good out of evil, joy out of suffering, moving us from death to new life. The church calls this the “Paschal Mystery” (after the Pasch, the ancient word for Passover). It is embodied in the three days (Triduum) of Holy Week. God sent his son Jesus Christ into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Jesus cured many who were afflicted with diseases and cast out many demons. He taught God’s word and invited people to come and follow him. Many did become his disciples. But he also made powerful enemies who conspired to kill him.
Jesus gathered with his disciples for the annual celebration of the Passover. He knew that he was a marked man and that these would be his final words. He told his disciples how much he loved them, to trust in God’s plan and not be afraid. He gave them the gift of the Eucharist and told them, “Do this in memory of me.” That night he would be arrested in secret and tried in haste. By sundown the next day, he would be dead. The Jews had murdered the very Messiah they had long expected. Men had killed God.
From this greatest of all tragedies came the greatest of all blessings. Jesus offered his life as a sacrifice on the cross. By dying, the sinless one destroyed our sins. He rose again on Easter Sunday and destroyed death forever. He rose to Heaven to prepare a place for us. And he sent the Holy Spirit to be with us always and guide us to eternal life.
We may not realize it, but most of us are busy living for ourselves. We think that getting our way will make us happy. But the truth is, we always end up disappointed and frustrated. Jesus shows us a different way. Instead of living for himself, Jesus trusted in the Father. He does the Father’s will. And his self-sacrificing love gives life to the World. Now Jesus is inviting us to follow him. If we join in his suffering and sacrifice, we will also join in his resurrection and new life. The little sufferings and sacrifices of Easter last year brought surprising blessings. Imagine what will happen if we each give our lives to God just as Jesus did.
Peace and Easter joy,
+Fr. Joel Sember, Pastor