March 31, 2016
A Life Restored, a Lesson for Easter
I couldn’t miss him. There he was near the front of the church in the parish where I had gone to celebrate Mass at the beginning of Lent. Every time I looked his way, he gave me a smile and a little wave. It was clear to me that he figured I would recognize him, but, for the life of me, I couldn’t. We really locked eyes when I gave him Holy Communion, but I still couldn’t place him.
Finally, at the reception in the parish hall after Mass, I could engage him.
“Cardinal Dolan, do you remember me?”
“You look familiar, but, honestly, I can’t remember where I know you from,” I admitted with some embarrassment.
“We met at the prison when you visited and had Mass for us inmates last Holy Week, remember? You told us that, when we got out, we should come say hello.”
I was so happy to see him, but not as happy as he was to be greeting me in a place other than prison! We embraced...
“I got out right before Thanksgiving. Now I have a job...not the best, but a starter—a little apartment here in the Bronx, and...” as he motioned for a woman to come over, “here’s my wife! She waited for me and we got married. Now, she’s expecting our first baby, and she’s going to become a Catholic at Easter. God has been so good!”
I hugged them both! What an inspiration!
That’s the story I told our people cramming St. Patrick’s last Saturday at the Easter Vigil. You know why?
Because that young man, an ex-convict, had risen to new life!
At Easter, yes, for sure, we celebrate and confess our faith that Jesus is risen from the dead! Alleluia!
But, we also proclaim the extraordinarily good news that Jesus also invites us to rise with Him! He shares with us His triumph over the cross!
“By dying, He destroyed our death! By rising, He restores our life!”
That good man I met at the parish had died: he put to death a life of crime; he did his time; his faith, his grit, his honest admission of wrong, his restitution, his rehabilitation, his good intention and resolve, had all led to a fresh start! He had risen, and now had a new life! And he would be the first to tell you he never could have done it without Jesus!
We see such resurrection stories all around us. We see them inside of us. We are partakers in the Resurrection of Jesus.
The way we most of the time recognize we share in the victory of Christ is at death. When we die, or when someone we love does, we immediately trust that, by the mercy of Jesus, we are united with Him forever in heaven.
Alleluia! But immortality, eternal life, is but the ultimate way we share in our Lord’s triumph of Easter.
A second way is so beautifully evident in the story of my friend who died to his life of crime and rose to a new life of hope and promise.
In and through Jesus, we, too, have the power to die to our sins, worries, anxieties, heartaches, and suffering. Through Him, with Him, and in Him, we rise to a new life of virtue, peace, meaning, fidelity. OK, sure, the cross is still there; always will be, He told us. But, with Him, we can conquer it. It has meaning; it brings new life!
Just ask the cancer survivor, the recovering alcoholic, the married couple struggling who persevere and get through. The Resurrection goes on!
The third way we share in the Resurrection of Jesus is through the sacraments. Jesus wants to pump His new, risen life into our souls. We call that life of Christ within our heart grace. He gives us grace a lot of ways, but dramatically, through the seven sacraments.
That’s why, throughout the archdiocese, over 2,000 adults were baptized, professed our Catholic faith, received the sacrament of Confirmation, and their first Holy Communion at Mass at the Easter Vigil last Saturday.
Right before our eyes, we saw people rise to a new life as Jesus poured His light and life into their thirsting, hungry souls.
Remember, when the soldier thrust his spear into our Lord’s side on the cross? Blood and water poured out from the heart of Jesus!
The Church has always believed that to symbolize the sacraments: the water represents Baptism, the Blood, the Eucharist.
Dear God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we praise you for raising Jesus from the dead! We thank you for giving us a share in His Resurrection! We bless you for not leaving us on the cross!
We adore Thee O Christ and we praise you! Because by Thy Holy Cross—and Resurrection!—Thou has redeemed the world!
A blessed Easter Season!