Easter's Golden Opportunity
Over the years priests, professional religious writers and amateurs like yours truly have undoubtedly struggled to cobble together the perfect Easter Message via a homily, article or essay, one which truly captures the essence of what this most holy of days is all about.
I have often wondered about the many great Catholic Priests that I have been fortunate enough to have learned from over the years. Did they feel the pressure to craft the "perfect homily" knowing full well that Easter Sunday would perhaps be their best opportunity to get those parishioners who only attend Mass once or twice a year to consider making a weekly commitment? These Priests took this responsibility very seriously, for they knew all too well the stakes involved given their vocation and subsequent devotion to it.
The celebration of Easter teaches us that good conquers evil, and although the day itself caps off a whirlwind of emotions by virtue of our observance of Lent and the Easter Tridium, it is also a day of renewal, one in which we can seek out opportunities to grow in our love and service to God. The opportunities and alternatives are countless, so I will simply offer up three golden opportunities worth considering as we strive to grow in our faith, galvanized by Jesus' undying love for us:
I will start with our fellow parishioners who are visiting our church for the first time this year on Easter Sunday. Rather than bemoan the fact that they took our parking spot or our favorite aisle seat in the right rear pew, let's welcome them and act in a way that they will in fact come back next Sunday. After all, this is what a true disciple of God would do. And who knows, maybe they haven't been back because us habitual Sunday Parishioners haven't made them feel welcome. Cliques and behavior that discourages inclusion flies in the face of everything that Jesus expects of us, not to even mention the example he set forth for us. Much like that dark chocolate easter bunny, the gift of faith is much more enjoyable when shared.
Speaking of non-inclusionary behavior, I can't help but marvel and bask in the tradition of the Holy Thursday Gospel or any other reading that evokes our rich Judeo Christian Heritage. Yet anti-Semitism stills exists within the Catholic Community. It truly is time to rid ourselves of this illogical, obtuse and wedge-driven way of thinking and instead embrace our similar traditions while politely respecting our differences as we seek interfaith common ground. Early indications suggest that Pope Francis could be the man to spearhead this effort. I have faith that he most certainly will.
Our final opportunity revolves around service to others. So many different and diverse opportunities to serve exist within the normal confines of a typical parish community. Perhaps you can wash the altar linens at your church? Or if you're skilled with the spatula or frying pan, lending a hand at a soup kitchen is a great form of service. Every year around Easter, the Right of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) Program leads the way for those who wish to convert to Catholicism. Sponsoring a Candidate is a fabulous form of service. Better yet to identify a candidate and then go on to sponsor him or her via RCIA.
As I watched the finale of "The Bible" this Evening, I was taken aback by the number of times Jesus spoke of changing the world, and in each instance a common every day person was chosen by Jesus to be the instrument through which the world was to be changed and souls saved. In many cases, it's the little things that do in fact change the world.
We all have been blessed with this ability to change the world. The challenge and great mystery before us is to find the way in which Jesus has called us to harness this gift within us.