Welcome to the Diocese of Lake Charles

March 31, 2024
“They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first.” John 20:4
On a somewhat humid and very dark Wednesday morning in mid-September last year, we left the hotel at 4:30 to make our way to the Via Crucis in Jerusalem, the path our Savior walked to Calvary. Two weeks later the Hamas attacks would shatter peace and the war would begin. There was no indication that this conflict would take place, at least nothing out of the ordinary in this land so regrettably on the brink of catastrophe. The pre-dawn streets were silent, as we walked along praying and singing the fourteen stations.
Finally, we reached the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at 5:45. Here St. Helena in the 4th Century had found the True Cross, and her son, Constantine had commissioned a basilica. Here our Lord had breathed His last on Calvary hanging from the cross, and in an enclosure within the church was the tomb which the disciples and Mary of Magdala found empty on that first Easter Sunday.
This inner “holy of holies” is called the aedicule. Its architecture is eclectic, representing the presence of Christians from all over the world who have visited through the centuries. Inside is a small room in which an altar is placed to celebrate Mass over the limestone slab, called the “Holy Bed,” where the body of our Lord was placed at his burial.
Promptly at 6:00a.m., the appointed time, I entered the aedicule with the pilgrims. The Mass celebrated was that of Easter Sunday, with the same readings from Scripture and the Sequence that we will hear this Sunday. In this small room, holding not more than 30 standing and in an even smaller enclosure where I stood to celebrate Mass, our Lord broke the chains of death. He left the burial cloths behind, testifying to His power to lay down His life and take it up again (cf. John 10:18). Every stone, every ancient pavement, each holy site was a reminder of what we have all read and heard proclaimed to us in the Sacred Scriptures. Here, in that place, Life was stronger than death, God revealing His power through Jesus Christ, His Son.
I had visited the Holy Land a few times before. I had even celebrated Mass in the Holy Sepulchre at Calvary, but I had never done so within the tomb itself. It was an experience I will never forget. In fact, calling the occasion an experience does the moment a disservice. This was no “bucket list,” an event to check off on my own life’s journey, an accomplishment, a completed action.
The Resurrection is no completed action, the way we would recall an historic battle or the birth of person of importance. No, the Resurrection lives on. We have our Lord’s promise in this regard. He lives on. In Word and Sacrament He reminds us of His presence. He still speaks to us, heals us, teaches us, feeds us, redeems us. These are no simple encounters. They defy being termed “an experience.”
As we left the aedicule that September day, what we took with us seemed as important as what we left behind. Had Mary of Magdala felt the same? What of Peter and John? Something had happened of such monumental proportion that even the disciples “did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9). One returned to the upper room, another perhaps knelt in adoration, still someone else sought silence to absorb the moment. This was no simple experience. It was a profound encounter with the living Lord. The hope it engendered and the faith it enlivened were gifts of the Divine Love. These are mysteries, and they take time to absorb. God gives us that time. That time is now.
A Blessed and Joyful Easter to you all!

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