All praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ who is risen from the dead! Alleluia! Alleluia!
This weekend we celebrate the greatest of our holy days in the Church, for we remember and rejoice in the greatest miracle of love: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is through his rising from the dead that he conquered death, the ultimate barrier humanity had to eternity with God. This event we call Easter concludes what we call the "Paschal Mystery." This Paschal Mystery is Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection. In Spanish, Easter is referred to as, "Pascua."
We all yearn for heaven, though possibly unaware. We yearn for communion, love, and ecstasy. Yet, we look for these in things, events, and people that cannot and do not fulfill these desires. Some theologians speak about it in terms of having a God-shaped hole in our hearts, and only God can fill that hole completely. In the meantime, we strive for joy and happiness only to be disappointed when our direction is toward anything other than God. A simple example is when someone we deeply love dies or suffers; We lose and suffer with them. We seek out help which is important. But, when we leave God out of the equation, we never fully heal, but rather continue to suffer. Jesus knew this about us. Indeed, God made us for himself, and he loves us perfectly. Remember, God is love and the author of love. So, since love is what we yearn for, it can only be fully experienced with God deeply involved. As St. Augustine once wrote in his book, Confessions, "You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, indeed his entire Paschal Mystery is the model and paradigm for all of Christian life. Whether we realize it or not, it is for this that our soul longs. So Easter is a celebration and a reminder that we were made for love and eternal life with God in heaven. Yet, we don't have to wait until we are in heaven to experience some foretaste of what is to come. But, in order to do that, we must follow Jesus in his Paschal Mystery. We must join our suffering to him, die to ourselves, and then be set free in a new joy/resurrection in our life here.
When a tragedy befalls us, when we have been betrayed, when we have been hurt by others, we naturally suffer. But, we are prone to avoid entering into it and avoid dying to ourselves. I include myself in this as well. When that happens, we never heal, never rise in joy. Easter reminds us that the path to joy is one preceded by suffering and death. So, where Jesus went, we are to follow. Think about a situation where there is some hardship or suffering. Spend time in prayer reflecting with Jesus about that situation. Ask Jesus to enter into that suffering with you. Listen to what he has to say. Put yourself aside. Put your own desires aside, and listen to the Lord. Seek out with Jesus and ask him where you need to let go, to die to yourself in regard to the suffering. Then, you will be open to what Jesus says and wants for you, not despite your suffering, but through your suffering. By doing this, you begin to die to yourself. By trusting in our Lord, a new situation, a new day, a resurrection is possible. By letting go and dying to yourself, you let Jesus work miracles in you. Sorrow can turn to joy. Hatred can turn to love. Despair can turn to hope. This continual spiritual exercise will train you for life eternal. It will turn you into a person whose joy is beyond the circumstances of this life. Your focus will no longer be the news or the latest gossip. You will not desperately seek out the approval of others. It will be solidly resting in the truth about God in your life, the truth that he loves you, the truth that sets you free!
This is what we celebrate in Easter. Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered death. He opened the gates of heaven. Resurrection is possible. Jesus rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father where he intercedes for us. He wants all of us to join him. But until that time, he wants us to live here on Earth in joy and to love his creation. May this Easter, this Pascua, remind you of these divine truths. May we all rejoice in God's love for us and his gift of the Paschal Mystery of his Son, Jesus Christ. May we all, too, live in imitation of our Lord, and so rise one day like him. May all we do give praise to Christ who showed us how to live, die, and rise to eternal life!
Fr. William Holtzinger