HOMILY OF BISHOP STEVEN J RAICA
EASTER VIGIL - MARCH 27, 2016
A very happy Easter to all of you today! It is a joy for me to celebrate with you the great feast of Easter!
Today, the Church around the world, celebrates the event that truly defines what it means to be Christian -- a person who follows Christ who is not just a figure from the past, but alive today. The dying and rising of Jesus is not merely an historical fact. It is something that permeates the life of a Christian in a profound way. Today more than ever, the Church is the repository of that event, keeping that memory alive. Today, the Church lives that event: dying to a past of sin, separation, alienation, darkness and pessimism, and rising to a life of grace, communion, togetherness, light, optimism and hope – and in light of this year of Jubilee, a life of mercy received and given. Today is that reminder we were made for something great, not just the limits of what my parents, friends or society impose on me. I am made for Christ. And for that reason, I live for Christ.
What is so special about this day is the fact that Christ rose from the dead! He was seen alive by Mary, the apostles and the disciples. Imagine if you witnessed that death – one of the most horrible deaths one can experience. He was truly dead. And then Jesus was seen again. He could be touched, as with Thomas. He ate in their presence. He spoke with them. He was different, yet He was the same!
He also promised He would remain with us always until the end of time. The Church, through the treasure of God’s Holy Word that it reveres and honors, and her liturgies where sins are forgiven, simple bread and wine become the Body of and Blood of Jesus our Savior, is where the faithful nourished for their pilgrim journey. They are strengthened in Confirmation and healed in the Anointing of the Sick. We witness again the astonishing miracles that illustrate Jesus is with us, too!
Today we have a unique challenge to keep these moments alive for ourselves and for future generations. We have the challenge not to give in to our society or popular culture that sentimentalizes Christmas and Easter so that the depths and richness of these feasts cannot even be recognized today. Today, with this Easter grace, we have the challenge to live more intentionally and concretely this Christian life that we have. It is the only way we can come to see how we must respond to the issues we face in our daily life, as families and as citizens! Before every other description, we are first and foremost a child of God – deeply loved and so loved that we have been redeemed!
In addition, no matter where we are, we all have a heart that becomes the way we are magnetized to recognize the presence of the mystery with us today. It is a heart that is filled with truth, with beauty, with love, with joy, with happiness. It is a heart that acknowledges and recognizes that I am not alone. I am made for an Other who knew me before I was born -- who has a unique plan for my life and a desire to be with me for all eternity.
That is the hope given to us today. Above all, Easter is about life – something so precious that believers everywhere seek to protect it from all threat, from the moment of conception to natural death. It was precious to God and so it is precious to us too. We do everything we can to nurture, to educate, to heal, to sustain it in our charity and aid to the needy. We provide for the physical and spiritual needs so that one can know and learn what the Lord intends.
You and I -- we have received so much from the Lord -- and we have so much to live for and so much to give. We have to look for Him again. He is looking for us!
I recall a friend of mine from Sardinia who studied a short while here in the U.S. I called him a few years ago and I said, “Biagio … Happy Easter! I suppose you and Miguela (his wife) had lamb or goat for Easter dinner?” He responded, “No, Monsignor! Do you remember after the resurrection when Peter was fishing on the Sea of Galilee all night and caught nothing? And then they spied Jesus on the beach roasting fish on the fire? Well, for that reason we had roasted fish – so we in our lives would be able to recognize the Lord too!”
I thought how beautiful. Do we integrate these stories into our lives so that we live for Christ, look for Christ in a new way, and see Christ in the various circumstances of our lives?
We are blessed to have this opportunity to learn our Christian traditions and to live them! In that way, when someone asks us, we can witness the power of Christ who is the source of all we do and our companion on the journey of life.
This is the importance of Easter -- that Jesus is alive and we live for Him!
May God bless you abundantly during this Easter season!
Click on a photo to enlarge or start a slide show.