This season of Lent is quickly drawing to a close.
On April 1 we begin the most solemn week of our liturgical year, Holy Week.
Lent concludes at sundown on Holy Thursday.
That same evening with the celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper we begin our observance of the Easter Triduum which ends with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday.
The dark shadow of sin in the family by some of its most respected members has hovered over us all too long.
But the good news of the Lord’s Easter victory over sin, suffering and death brings us hope.
As we gather for the celebration of the paschal mystery at the end of Holy Week, we proudly and gladly claim our Christian Catholic identity.
The reason for our pride and joy, of course, is Jesus Christ, the perfect union of the human and divine, the one sent by the Father to be our Savior and our Lord.
The celebrations of the Easter Triduum commemorate the full paschal mystery of Jesus, his saving passion, death and resurrection.
But, understandably, there is a particular focus for each day.
On Holy Thursday we commemorate the gift of the Eucharist whereby we are able to share in the body he gave for us and the blood he poured out for us.
On Good Friday we venerate the cross which Jesus transformed from an instrument of torture to a sign of Christian hope by his saving death.
Finally on Holy Saturday night and Easter Sunday morning, we rejoice in the good news of his Resurrection, a victory over death unparalleled in the annals of human history.
The most precious moment of all, of course, will come on Saturday night when we gather for the beautiful Easter Vigil.
With its many readings from Sacred Scripture, impressive rituals, and dramatic setting, we all become fully alive again as our elect are baptized and then join our candidates for full communion in the church with the reception of Confirmation and the Eucharist.
Their willingness to join our company makes it all the easier for us to identify ourselves proudly as Christian Catholics, disciples of the risen Lord, not just a group of wannabe do-gooders.
Our elect and candidates provide a very visible sign that the Holy Spirit continues to work among God’s people, inviting us all to a closer relationship with Him through the family of the church.
The Easter Vigil is a three-fold celebration.
The first centers on fire and light, the Easter candle and the readings which teach us that this night condenses and summarizes the whole history of salvation.
Whatever God did for his chosen people throughout the centuries, he does again for us. “He makes us a new creation, calls us to be His chosen people. He frees us from slavery, gives us a new heart, and enters into a new covenant with us.”
Next we celebrate the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. The elect are baptized and the rest of us are invited to renew our own baptismal promises and to receive a blessing with the Easter holy water.
The elect and the candidates are then confirmed, filled with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, empowering them to be disciples in mission with us, bringing God’s message of forgiveness and salvation to a world unaccustomed to such good news.
Finally, our celebration culminates with the Eucharist, always a special memorial of the Resurrection of Jesus.
Easter is the feast of feasts because the Resurrection of Jesus heralds our own resurrection and is a promise of life everlasting.
For the 50 days of Easter, “Alleluia” will be our song and all of us will be cantors.
It is the Eucharist which is the privileged place for our encounter with the risen Lord.
When we gather around the Lord’s table, as we are invited to do each Sunday, we receive the very special gift of recognizing and knowing the Lord in the Eucharist.
People who drift away from coming to Sunday Mass miss the most significant opportunity of a lifetime: the privilege of meeting our risen Lord and God.
In fact, it is not at all uncommon that many who become Catholics are drawn to our faith precisely because of what they experience at Mass.
My friends, come to hear and celebrate the good news during Holy Week this year.
The Easter story about Jesus is a marvel. But more marvelous is the Easter story about the disciples of Jesus.
They came to believe again after doubting.
They hoped again after despairing.
They loved again after hating.
That same miracle of grace will come among us too, if we allow our hearts to be touched by God’s holy word and sacraments.
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