Lift Up Your Hearts- Happy (late) Easter!

A happy Easter to all!

Well I had planned to have this article for you this last week, but it was Holy Week and things got a little busy.

Thankfully we have an Octave for Easter where for eight days we celebrate as one Easter day, because who can celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus in 24 hours? Not enough time. Anyway, I pray you all had a wonderful and grace-filled Easter. It is pretty amazing to think that last year at this time we were on lockdown and that no one was able to participate in our Easter Triduum liturgies. I know that there are still some churches that have not reopened their doors, and many people are still participating remotely via lifestream or Zoom. In many ways, even those who are able to come back to in person celebrations, will still be missing many elements of our normal Triduum activities. While this is a bit saddening, I also think that it has provided us with a good dose of self-denial. Certainly, Holy Week is a perfect time to be reminded that Christ told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Covid-19 has certainly offered us many opportunities to do this. Perhaps it has even helped us to realize the need for us to unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ.

I recently watched The Passion of the Christ produced by Mel Gibson. I usually watch it every year during Holy Week. It never ceases to pierce my heart. I remember vividly the first time I watched it in college on opening night. I remember walking out of a packed theatre completely unable to speak, lost in thought and surrounded by hundreds of others doing the same. You could ave heard a pin drop it was so quiet. I still struggle to watch it, because it is so graphic and vivid. At the same time it is so moving and so well done. It really brings to life many things in my mind. The first is the real ugliness of human sinfulness. The second is the depths of God’s love for us that can only draw forth a strong desire to love Him in return. The third is gratitude that I do not have to go through the ramifications of my sins, because He did it already. The fourth is that try as I might, I cannot be perfect. I will always be in desperate need of His mercy, and of the sacrifice that He made.

Easter Sunday, of course, commemorates Christ’s victory over all of our sin and over eternal death. As He rises from the grave He gains for us life eternal with the Trinity. It is so humbling for us to receive this amazing gift. Yet, even more humbling is that there is nothing we can do to earn it or achieve it ourselves. So often we can get stuck thinking that we can perform for God, or that we need to in order to be worthy of His love. No, it is a total gift. With His grace, and only with His grace can we arrive there. His grace does assist us in our transformation here in this life, and strengthens us to carry our crosses, but, as Jesus reminds us in the Garden of Gethsemane “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). It’s honestly very comforting that God knows this, and has experienced this weakness. He understands how we try, but can’t seem to get it perfectly. As St. Paul states, “I do not understand my own action. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). Even though this is true, the call to take up our cross daily remains, as well as the call from Christ to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Herein lies the battle. The cross that we carry is the weakness of our flesh that we surrender in humility to the grace of Christ. The more we follow after Him and strive to put into practice His love and His life, the more we will dispose ourselves to receiving His grace. His grace in turn strengthens us to continue to carry our cross and to follow him ever more closely. The perfection that we first must strive for is perfect humility and trust in His mercy. This opens our hearts to receive the grace and power of His Resurrection for fully.

This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday and the last day of our Easter octave. It is a good opportunity to make an act of entrustment to the merciful heart of Jesus. As we continue to celebrate this Easter season, I pray that you will humbly give Christ permission to be your savior. He is such a merciful savior, just waiting to forgive. I love the line from Jesus when he is telling the parable of the lost sheep, how “there will be more joy in heaven over the one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). It is a great Joy of Jesus to forgive us and to give us His grace and life. It takes a lot of humility to recognize just how much we need it, and complete trust that we will receive it, when we ask. may the Lord bless you all and fill you with His peace. Jesus, I trust in you!