Indeed he is risen!
These words have been proclaimed by Christians for centuries, long before the Easter bunny began hiding chocolate eggs in our houses. These days the greeting is often replaced with happy Easter or Joyeuse Pâques, but the sentiment remains: “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” 1 Cor 15:14
The resurrection is the basis of our faith, the reason for Easter, and the cause of our joy.
By now, like Christmas, we have already returned to work or our normal routine and the memory of the joyful Easter weekend is fading. Even in the church it seems that we give much more emphasis to the 40 days of Lent than the 50 days of Easter to Pentecost.
On the contrary, Eastertide, or the Easter season, can be a wonderful opportunity for mystagogia, or spiritual reflection. How did lent go for you? What was the experience like? Did you continue your penance after Easter? Questions like this can help us to remember the many spiritual lessons learned during our Lenten deserts and Eastertide can help us deepen our understanding of how God is at work in our lives and in this world.
In the diocese of Prince Albert, and in my parishes, we have been journeying through the Intentional Discipleship and Ananias process, as outlined by Sherry Weddell. This has helped us in forming an understanding of where we are as individual Christians on our spiritual journey, and where we want to be; in other words, a spiritual growth plan of sorts. This itself requires a change in attitude. Do we consider ourselves church-going catholics, or pilgrims on a journey towards everlasting life with God? The former requires us to show up at church on Sundays, the latter requires difficult inward change and growth in holiness and receptivity to God’s will in our lives.
Now I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to go to church, but the temptation is to settle into a comfortable Sunday-only faith. The problem with that is that a comfortable faith, or a church of comfortable people, are content with the way things are. And yet we are not comfortable with the way things are. We are deeply disturbed by the lack of church attendance, and by the lack of peace in the world, but we don’t know what to do, and so, increasingly frustrated, we search for many reasons or people or church rules to blame, rather than looking inside ourselves for a solution.
Since the the early church, each generation has had unique challenges to face, and Christians (and saints!) had to rise up to the challenge of their time, to boldly proclaim Christ in ever new ways to the culture. It really is a matter of life or death, resurrection or Good Friday.
Our time is no different, although the culture is. How are we called to respond?
I am very proud of our three parishes. They have been praying, teaching, receiving the sacraments, and evangelizing long before I arrived there, and will continue long after I am gone. There have been many faithful priests and leaders building powerful communities of worship. However, in the rural areas, the lack of hope in our future seems more acute because not only is church attendance down, but people are also moving away, which makes the future seem even more hopeless.
Yet hope does not disappoint, because even “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13.
My task for all of us is difficult. It begins in the past, giving thanks for our ancestors who passed the faith on to us, not generally but very specifically. Name the mentors, parents, grandparents who first taught us the faith, and honour what they taught. Fr. Nick recently shared that no matter how much he has learned about God over the years, he continually falls back to what his parents taught him as a child. It was a beautiful reflection of how we honour our faith roots.
But then we must realize that we no longer simply receive faith, but like them we must transmit faith. Our mentors knew how to pass the faith to us, maybe it was easier for them back then. But do we know how to pass our faith on to others?
Prayer helps with this. Our parents were people of deep prayer, and so too must we become. In our moments of prayer the Holy Spirit will teach us how to instruct others in the faith. Now is the time in the church where we need mentors more than ever. We need spiritual directors. We need people who can lead others back to Christ. We need people like Ananias, who helped St. Paul understand who this Jesus character was whom he met on the road to Damascus. “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14) Preaching is not just for preachers, nor is it a synonym for scolding, but it is the ability to give a reason for our hope in Christ.
After prayer, it is understanding exactly how God has called us to preach. Each of us has been given gifts and talents, charisms, from the Holy Spirit, at our Confirmation. It is through these charisms that we will be able to lovingly and effectively mentor and reveal to others the person of Jesus Christ. Are we aware of our charisms? In other words, our purpose on earth, our God-given reason for living?
And that my friends is my task for us for as long as I am with you.
1. Recognize that if nothing changes, nothing will change.
2. Complaints don’t cause change, but solutions do.
3. Change begins with ourselves, are we humble enough to admit that?
4. What exactly is God calling you to do now and what gifts has he given you to do that?
This is your mission.
May God bless you and I pray that the Divine Mercy, which God gives to all those who ask will set your hearts and minds on fire with the love of Christ and His church!