My dear People of God,
Every time we celebrate the mysteries of our faith and particularly at Easter, the priest has the privilege of proclaiming once again the message of the apostles. Like St. Paul, he can stand before the congregation and proclaim, “We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you” (Acts 13:32). And what is that “good news”, an expression from which we get “Gospel” in English? “That what God promised our ancestors he has brought to fulfillment for us, their children, by raising up Jesus” (Acts 13:32-33). It was the same “good news” preached by St. Peter at “Solomon’s Portico,” when he proclaimed, “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15).
The “good news” is the mystery of Jesus’ life-giving passion, death, and Resurrection. This is the Pascal Mystery. This is the mystery of God who loves us so much, that while we were still sinners, He gave us His only Son to suffer, die, and rise from the dead so that proclaiming this mystery we might have hope and sharing in this mystery we might have eternal life.
There is in fact no death without suffering and no resurrection without death. Our Lord Jesus Christ taught the interconnectedness of the three. He said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (John 12:24). Every Christian is invited to this mystery. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24). If Christianity is the imitation of Christ, then the Christian must live this mystery.
The Christian must begin where the mystery begins, with suffering. Human suffering can take many different forms. Usually we find suffering in illness and in loneliness and alienation. I think also that suffering comes from three crises that face humanity.
When we hear “crisis” spoken of today, people usually mean the economy. Many have lost jobs. Others have lost much, if not most, of their savings. Many in our area suffered through the loss of property during the last hurricanes. This is a material crisis, and it causes real suffering.
There is yet another “crisis.” This one is moral. This crisis manifests itself in the break-up of families, rising rates of drug addiction, promiscuity, and a disregard for human life, beginning with the life of the unborn. This moral crisis also causes serious suffering at a different level.
I think there is a third “crisis.” This one is cultural. The cultural crisis is intertwined with the other two, the economic and moral, to the extent that they all proceed from two major movements in our modern world: secularism and materialism. When we place our trust in “mammon” and forget God as the source of all good, then we suffer even more. This cultural crisis is seen most especially in the fundamental malaise of society. We mistake opinion for truth. We are unable to define what is objectively good. And we destroy beauty.
How do we respond to these crises and suffering in particular? The answer is rooted in the very “good news” proclaimed by the Gospels. Simply, we respond with the Truth. There is no Resurrection without a dying to self. That is the Truth, and Jesus taught and lived it. Any crisis can be an invitation to suffering, a suffering that transforms. Whatever suffering can be redemptive, if we embrace it with faith.
The Christian must not only preach the “good news.” The Christian must live the “good news.” The Christian must live the mystery of Christ’s passion, death and Resurrection. In this way the Christian witnesses to the Truth. As St. Paul so beautifully said —“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1) — then the Christian must imitate Christ in every respect. In doing so, the Christian witnesses to the world the reason for hope (I Peter 3:15).
I recall the beautiful words spoken by Pope Benedict XVI when he visited our country a year ago this next week. “Show the world the reason for the hope that resonates within you. Tell others about the truth that sets you free” (Rally for Young People and Seminarians, Yonkers, New York, April 19, 2008).
Happy Easter! In whatever crisis you suffer, live the Truth. Witness to others the reason for your hope.
God love you!
+Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles