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Bishop Hebda's Easter Message


Hebda_Photo_FINAL2_cropped_1.jpgI have had the undeserved privilege of celebrating Easter in some of the most famous and important sites in Christendom (St. Peter’s in Rome, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, St. Basil’s in Red Square, St. Patrick’s in New York City, to mention but a few) and in some of the most picturesque spots in the world (in a Baroque Abbey nestled in the Swiss Alps and in a medieval monastery blocked from the world by a parade of cedars, right out of Under the Tuscan Sun).

Yet none of those Easters can compare with the Easter of 2005, spent with my family keeping vigil in a cramped hospital room in Pittsburgh. My Mom was battling for her life, having suffered a severe stroke which prompted a craniotomy on Holy Thursday as the rest of us gathered in the hospital chapel to commemorate Jesus’ Last Supper and, of course, to pray for a successful surgery.

That Good Friday we experienced the reading of the Passion differently, having spent the day in an intensive care unit in which death lingered around every corner. Holy Saturday crept in and we devoured with renewed interest the readings of the Easter Vigil, which promised new and everlasting life to all who choose to follow Christ, and on Easter morning, three generations of Hebdas gathered for Mass around a makeshift altar in that hospital room, joining in song with the Church throughout the world and throughout the ages: Christ is risen! He is truly risen! It was a message that sustained us and gave us hope. Six years later, my Mom has no recollection of that Easter morning but it will always be the one that I remember most.

While two thousand years have passed since that Sunday morning when the faithful women went to take spices to Jesus’ tomb and found that he had risen, the world continues to thirst for Easter hope. In spite of spring snowstorms and economic doldrums , health concerns and budget cuts, that empty tomb in Jerusalem continues to proclaim to the world that nothing—absolutely nothing--is stronger than God’s love.

The message is found credible, however, only to the extent that it is seen to have changed the lives of those of us who claim to believe. A life transformed by joy, radiating forgiveness and unwavering compassion, speaks to the essence of Easter much more eloquently than even the most beautiful bonnet or the most intricately decorated egg.

In this year in which the Diocese of Gaylord marks its 40th anniversary, please join me in praying that we might use well the 50 days of the Easter Season to renew our commitment to “know Christ and the power of His Resurrection.” Through lives that strive to imitate Jesus’ love and his humble and joy-filled service, may we become credible beacons of hope as we proclaim throughout this portion of the Lord’s vineyard: “Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen!”

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