During these days of the Easter season, it is the joy and the responsibility of the whole community to pray for those baptized and received into the church at the Easter Vigil. These women and men, girls and boys have come to a remarkable and fresh beginning in their journeys of faith. During this season, their initiation — and ours — is to grow closer to Christ through our contemplation of his risen presence to his disciples. It is a presence that carries forgiveness, the gifts of life and friendship, the mission to share with others what he has given to us.
Each year these Easter gifts open our hearts to life in new ways. That is because from Easter to Easter we change and so do the circumstances of our lives. So we must take care to discover the responses to which Easter life calls us. Are there hurts and wounds to which I must attend — in myself or others? How does the Lord call me now to grow in and to express the loving friendship he offers to me? How would the Lord mission me to share with others the gifts I have received?
On this Wednesday morning I think of the nine catechumens I had the privilege of baptizing during the Easter Vigil at Sacred Heart Cathedral. What do they remember about the experience of the vigil? Does life seem different to them? Does this experience of baptism impact their relationships with others? What new questions did the experience of baptism generate in their hearts? Do they understand that all of us, however long we have been believers, continually deal with such questions?
This holy season is a powerful reminder that the Christian life is one of loving relationships — with the Lord and with our sisters and brothers. It is a dynamic, ever-changing reality that continually calls us to take another step, to go deeper, to lose ourselves so that we might find life in greater abundance. The growth part is exciting; the dying to self part is much less so. We naturally, spontaneously want more of life. But to die to self and to surrender anything can be daunting. And yet, it is pretty clear from his teaching and from the way he lived and died that this is the way along which the Lord invites us: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies"; "If you want to be great, you must serve"; "Unless you take up the cross daily." The beautiful irony of it all is that the promise of this way is life, joy, peace and fullness.
I can’t help thinking of two of the most revered and popular figures of modern times — Mother Theresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II. Their life paths were very different, but both are thought to have been truly holy people who lived their Christian relationship in profound and often heroic ways. We all know that both knew suffering in their lives, that their faith often enough was put to the test. What explains their strength and steadfastness except the grace of God, which allowed them to locate their own sufferings in the suffering of Christ; and more that deepened their belief that, sharing his sufferings, they also would share his life.
We don’t always have to turn to world figures to find people who offer such a powerful witness to the faith. Just think of people you know who suffer much or who bear much frustration but who are joyfully alive with concern for others and with love of neighbor. They may never be formally recognized as holy by the church; they may never be household names like Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul II. But we know them to be very, very close to the Lord. We know them as people who understood and lived Easter life.
Peace to all.