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EASTER SUNDAY

  
"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad." These words are taken from Psalm 113, the Responsorial Psalm for Easter Sunday. They set the mood for today's liturgy, and summarize the basic theme for our Easter celebration as we commemorate Christ's Resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we have cause to rejoice; we have reason to hope.
           Unfortunately, the current Coronavirus pandemic has dampened this year's Easter festivities. Yet, despite our inability to celebrate today's feast in the manner we would want and have been accustomed, it is important to remember the scriptural circumstances which led up to today's Easter celebration.
            Prior to his being raised from the dead, Jesus underwent trial and crucifixion, death and burial. So, if there was any time we needed to hear and believe the words of the author of Psalm 113, it is now as this virus ravages our lives, our country, our world.
            Furthermore, during these unsettling times, regardless of any limitations or restrictions placed on us for our safety, it is all the more necessary that we do not forget the importance of or even attempt to cancel the celebration of Easter, the greatest day on our Church calendar. Though the celebration of Easter Sunday Mass will be celebrated privately and quietly by every priest, it will still be done in union with you, the faithful. It is also why we streamlining this 9:00 am Easter Mass.
            There are two major reasons why God sent his only begotten Son into our world. The first was to fully reveal himself to us and his infinite love for us. The second was so his Son could suffer and die in order to be raised on the third day. By his death and resurrection, Christ was able to conquer sin and death; restore us to life eternal; and recreate our fallen world.
            If it wasn't for the COVID-19 virus which has forced us to follow state and federal guidelines for social distancing and isolation to slow the spread of the virus, in safer times, at Easter Sunday Mass we would have been blessed with holy water after we had publically renounced sin and renewed our baptismal vows. All of these actions were designed to remind us of our own baptism. When we were baptized, we were baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus. Consequently, we now share in Christ's victory over sin and death.
            As much as we have just cause to lament what this terrible virus has wrought, we also even have more reason not to despair because of what Jesus accomplished by his death and resurrection. Moreover, his resurrection proved that sin and death no longer had power over him.
            I mentioned earlier that one of the two main reasons why God sent his Son into our world was to make known his great love for us. But at what price? Scripture tells us that God was willing to sacrifice his only Son. And the Son loved us so much that he was willing to accept death -- even death on a cross -- for our sins.
            Some may recall the song from the 1955 movie "Love Is a Many Splendid Thing," which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Love is and will always be the most splendid thing we can know, feel and experience. It was the love of the Father for his Son which couldn't keep them apart, not even in death. While some may mistakenly think that Jesus raised himself from the dead; not so! It was the power of the Father's love which raised Jesus from the grave.
            Love, true love, requires sacrifice. You and I cannot love unless we are willing to sacrifice something of ourselves for the greater good in others. This explains why our final death and resurrection will be a culmination of many, mini dyings and risings which took place over the course of our earthly lives.
            In its reporting of this terrible pandemic, the media has frequently accentuated the negative and overlooked the positive. For example, until very recently, too little has been told about the countless sacrifices people have made out of their love and concern for others, including those who have stayed home to mitigate the virus, as well as those who have continued to perform essential services for our benefit, and of course, those health professional workers on the front lines who have been caring for the sick, consoling the bereaved and searching for a cure.             The  Paschal Candle which was blessed and lit last night at the Easter Vigil shines as a light in the darkness, a light which no darkness can overcome, not even the COVID-19 virus. It symbolizes Christ, the light of the world, who dispels the darkness; sets captives free; forgives the sinner; counsels the wayward; heals the sick; comforts the brokenhearted; and raises the dead.
            In these, what appear to be the darkest of times, the Risen Christ continues to illumine our lives as we struggle. As Pope Francis stated in his Friday address from St. Peter's Square, "Jesus is our anchor and our rudder." He is our rock and our salvation. He is our promise and our hope. He is our life and our resurrection.
            As we navigate through unchartered waters during these challenging and stressful times, filled with so much anxiety, fear and uncertainty, we need to heed the advice given by the angel to the women in today's gospel: "Do not be afraid. I know you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said."
            Later in this same gospel, Jesus reiterates the angel's words"Do not be afraid," as he meets and greets Mary Magdalene and the other Mary on their way to Galilee just as the angel had instructed them. Similar to the angel Jesus tells the women to be ambassadors of the good news about his resurrection by sharing it with others.
            In times like this, we must not allow fear to overwhelm us. Instead, we must put our trust in the Risen Lord. Like the women in our gospel, we, too, are called to be ambassadors of Christ's triumph over sin and death, by sharing that good news with others, especially with those whose faith needs a boost after being tried and tested by the Coronavirus pandemic.
            This particular Easter Sunday we have been presented with a choice. We can either be a people of "gloom and doom" because of the virus. Or we can be a people whom the fourth century bishop, St. Augustine of Hippo, described as an "Easter people whose 'Alleluia' is our song."
            Our Easter celebration will continue for the next fifty days. At the end of that period, I hope and pray the COVID-19 pandemic will have finally subsided and the curve flattened. Like Jesus from the tomb, we, too, will rise from the ashes due to this dreadful virus.
            Then, on Pentecost Sunday, the end of our Easter season, we can have reason to rejoice again as we pray: "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth."
            God bless you. Keep safe. And may you and your loved ones have a blessed Easter!
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