Easter Sunday—23 March AD 2008
On real and illusory change.
[Ordinary of the Mass]
[ Mass Text-Latin]
Let me begin by wishing all of you a
happy and holy Easter, filled with the joy that comes from the knowledge that
our Lord has been victorious over death, and has risen to life—filled with the
knowledge that He has redeemed us and will, one day, raise us up as He raised
Himself—filled with the joy that by His sacrifice on the Cross, He has given
us the means to our own holiness, salvation, and joyful resurrection.
And let me thank all of you who
contributed in any way to our celebration of Holy Week and Easter. Your
efforts are truly appreciated!
the liturgy of Easter there is a great deal of emphasis on replacing old things
with new things. In the Easter Vigil we bless a new fire from a new spark
struck from flint; we bless a new candle to represent the risen Christ
amongst us; we bless new holy water and water to baptize new Christians;
we renew our own baptismal promises. The altar is draped in fresh linens,
and even the tabernacle contains freshly consecrated Hosts.
sometimes it is possible to take this enthusiasm for change and go off in the
wrong direction. Sometimes we can be fooled into trying to change what
needs not and cannot be changed, while failing to change what needs to be
way of illustration, we might try to imagine the feelings of certain people who
were actually present at the events of Good Friday and Easter 2,000 years ago.
of all, think of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who supervised the
crucifixion of our Lord that Friday. Now, on Saturday or Sunday, when
Pilate had the chance to think about the events of the past few days, he
probably felt quite elated with himself; he probably thought that he had changed
things for the better. Here he was, the representative of Rome, a hated
foreign power that had forced itself on Israel. And now for the first
time, he would say to himself that he had eliminated a threat to the Roman
Empire with the cooperation of the very people who had previously been Rome's
enemies. Both the crowds and the leaders of the people had demanded the
blood of this supposed revolutionary called “the Christ.” Even King
Herod, who had always envied Pilate's authority, had cooperated in a spirit of
Pilate thought he had something to write back to Rome about—to Tiberius Cæsar
himself. On that first Easter Sunday it never occurred to him that he was
soon to be recalled to Rome in disgrace.
the other hand, by sometime on that First Easter Sunday, most of our Lord's
disciples were beginning to think that nothing had changed at all! There
was no Body in the tomb. Mary Magdalene had seen Him, and had even
embraced His feet, just like in the “old days.”
He joined them once again in the Upper Room, comforting them and bringing them
peace. A few days later He ate and drank with some of them. For a
brief time it seemed that life was just going to go on; that not even
crucifixion could change the pleasant state of things with Jesus Christ.
And, of course, if the disciples believed this, they were just as wrong as
Pontius Pilate; for in a few weeks they would enter into three centuries of
problem is, of course, in thinking that the affairs of men in the world can be
substantially changed by men. They really cannot; just as the Old
Testament prophet of Ecclesiastes tells us, “there is nothing new under the
How many wars has mankind fought “to end all wars”? How many “New
Deals,” and “New World Orders,” and “Great Societies” have come and
gone since the time of Christ? How many once powerful nations have faded
the Church has seen its share of “reform” movements. Some have been
successful and some have not. And the distinction and the difference is
important: Successful reforms have always been spiritual reforms; when
people were asked to turn aside from the world, and to devote more of their
attention to loving God, and loving their neighbor because of the love of God.
Church reforms are always unmitigated disasters when they try to accommodate the
Church to the ways of the world. Over a thousand years ago we saw the
damage that resulted from bishops and priests being made barons and lords of
civil society in Europe. In the past forty years or so, we have seen
enormous numbers of people fall away from the Faith as misguided churchmen
foolishly tried to find ways for them to sleep late or play golf on Sunday
morning; tried to make the Mass more “socially relevant,” and just
plain shorter or dumber; and tried to find ways around observing the
Commandments, and the practices of penance. We have seen the disaster of
making God’s revealed truth subject to discussion and dialogue, with the vain
hope that divine truth might be changed to accommodate each and every falsity of
there is a tremendous renewal that is symbolized in this feast of Easter.
It is not a worldly renewal; not social, not political, not
economic; and certainly not a renewal of things in the Church that need no
renewing. Easter is a spiritual renewal. The renewal of
Easter is the renewal by Baptism; of being joined to Christ in His death, and
rising out of the waters with Him to life. The renewal of Easter is the
renewal by Sacramental Confession; that Sacrament instituted on Easter night as
our Lord gave the Apostles the power to forgive or not forgive our sins.
The renewal of Easter is the renewal of Holy Communion; the living Bread that
gives life to the Soul—God’s New Covenant with mankind, no longer bound to
the Temple at Jerusalem and its bloody sacrifices. All of these are part
of the only true renewal; the renewal of the spirit.
God bless all of you with this renewal of spirit; with that “purging out of
the leaven of malice and wickedness” in favor of “sincerity and truth.”
May you all “seek the things that are above . . . not the things
that are on earth.”
Change the things which can be changed, and should be; the things of the
spirit; leave alone the things of the world. May God grant you a
blessed, holy, and happy Easter!