Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Easter Sunday—23 March AD 2008
On real and illusory change.

[Ordinary of the Mass]
[ Mass Text-Latin]
[Mass Text-English]

    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!

    In 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.

    But 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 changed.

    By 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.

    First 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 friendship.[2]  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.[3]

    On 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.”[4]  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 persecution.

    The 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 sun.[5]”  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 into oblivion?

    Even 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 the world.

    Yet, 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.[6]  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.

    May 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.”[7]  May you all “seek the things that are above . . . not the things that are on earth.”[8]  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!



[1]   Acknowledgement to Msgr. Ronald Knox.

[2]   Luke xxiii: 12

[3]   Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History,  ii: 7 has him recalled by the tyrant Gaius Caligula (AD 37–41), exiled to Gaul and killing himself in Vienne.

[4]   Matthew xxviii: 9.

[5]   Ecclesiastes i: 9.

[6]   John xx: 19-31 (Gospel for Low Sunday—next Sunday).

[7]   1 Corinthians v.

[8]   Colossians iii.



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