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Why celebrate Easter joy amid tears and flames?



Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ - published on 04/24/19

Whether I feel like it or not, I’ll intone the Gloria again.

This morning—during the Octave of Easter—I intoned the Gloria at Mass. Because I had to … not because I felt like it.

Why wouldn’t I feel like it? Why am I not, right now, “overcome with Paschal joy,” as the First Preface of Easter of the Novus Ordo Missae speaks of? The fire at Notre Dame? The massacre in Sri Lanka? Was it because Easter Sunday was the anniversary of my father’s death? Is it because this morning one of my college friends told me she’s undergoing aggressive cancer surgery tomorrow morning? Maybe … And tomorrow, at Mass, whether I feel like it or not, I’ll intone the Gloria again—because the ritual calls for it, and because it’s the right thing to do.

It is right and just, always and everywhere, but especially during the Easter season, to give God thanks and praise! Christ crucified is Christ risen is Christ reigning—and he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire. Because I believe that—and I believe it because the Church founded by Christ has always taught it—I can worship and praise, even in the presence of sickness, death and loss. This is nothing new. The saints and Fathers and Doctors and martyrs have always known this. They lived and died by and for this truth.

Because Christ is risen, we dare not live as pagans, atheists or as spiritual orphans. All creation has been re-defined by Christ’s resurrection. We who’ve kept vigil with Christ are being invited to join him to witness to his victorious light—moving from dawn to noon to glory. I am sorry for suffering, sickness and death. But these truly terrible realities cannot have the meaning and power they once had, because Christ is risen.

Yes, there is still moral and spiritual darkness in this world. Right now, it seems that such darkness deserves its cocky attitude, because it appears to be winning. That darkness is blinded by its pride; it cannot see that it has already been defeated.

Here I pause: I am NOT saying, “Christ is risen, so kick back and wait for the consummation of the world!” No! Not at all! Faithful Christians may have a share in the victory of the risen Christ only to the degree that they first had a share in his struggle and suffering. As St. Paul taught: First the cross, then the crown.

Faithful Christians have lots of hard work to do, and many sacrifices to make, if we’re to be ready to meet Christ when he returns in glory. We have to fight to keep doctrine from being distorted; we have to fight to keep morals from being mangled. We have to fight to keep our churches from being desecrated and our heritage from being burned. We have to admit that faithful Christians have enemies—secular, sectarian, spiritual—who want us compromised, silenced or dead. We must admit that we’re hated because we proclaim the Gospel of Christ, because we lift high his cross as our only hope, and because we will not leave our tabernacles empty. We must admit that we’re hated because we tell the truth about the sanctity of life, from conception to natural death. We must admit that we’re hated because we tell the truth about marriage and family. A community that is hated might rightly be fearful. A community that is hated but confident in Christ is rightly hopeful.

Rightly hopeful. Not wishful thinking. Not unicorns and bunnies and endless hugs. Rather, we’re called to a stubborn trust in the love, fidelity and victory of God. That stubborn love of God for us, a love that is as hard as death, whose flames are stronger than Hell—that stubborn love for us is the foundation of our stubborn trust in him (Song of Songs 8:6). As Our Heavenly Father did not abandon his only-begotten son to the tomb, so too Almighty God will not abandon those who are faithful to him and fight for his honor.

This Holy Week, I enjoyed the very great privilege of offering the rites of the Church at a beautiful monastery. The reverence, fervor, gratitude and joy of the members there have marked me for life. Their radiant conviction in the victory of Christ has brought light into the darkness that surrounds me and tries to find its way into me.

Mary Magdalene couldn’t see Jesus through her tears, and couldn’t find him because she was facing the wrong way (John 20:11-18). She found him when she heard him call her name. The risen Christ calls us by name, daily. Please God, this day, may we embrace him!

When I write next, I’ll continue our series of reflections on Easter. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.

Gregory the Great

Read more:
Pray this prayer to remain in Easter joy

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