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A Leaven In The World… To Rise From The Ashes, To Quit The Tomb

April 22, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

A blessed Easter to all of our readers. “The Lord is risen. Alleluia!”
Christ’s story, recounted in the Scriptures proclaimed liturgically in these holy days, must become our story, too. Easter is our most important annual celebration of this fact. Baptized as we are into Christ’s death, we must live so as to rise with Him who has risen before us. In these most joyful days of our Easter octave, we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord as one long Easter Day, the Sunday of Sundays. The joy which marks our prayer of the Holy Mass each Sunday throughout the year is anchored by the fact of the first Easter Sunday and the discovery of the empty tomb.
The Christian faith is a leaven in the world, as we are reminded by the theme of this column each week. We are to bring the truth and grace of the Resurrection by our profession of faith and our lives into all of humanity in order to further the Father’s plan of love initiated in the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. These past weeks have given us much to consider as we ponder the death of a great Jesuit, Fr. James V. Schall, and view the ashes and fallen timbers of what was once the crowning glory of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Fr. Schall spoke and wrote well and much. He helped us to better deploy the power of Church teaching in order to see the long view of history from the superior vantage point of faith. In his memory I share his wisdom here:
“I have frequently remarked during the era of John Paul II and Benedict that Catholicism has never been intellectually stronger or culturally weaker. That sharp edge of intellect seems dimmed to me. The God of faith and reason still seems untouched in its integrity.
“But the world is not converted. It calls us with loud voices to come, be human, and forget the Man on the Cross who was sent into your midst, lo those many years ago.
“It turns out that Christ was serious about our knowing and observing the Commandments. Socrates was correct. It is never right to do wrong. There are deeds that are intrinsically evil. To insist that they are good is to undermine our souls. We now see daily that no sin is forgotten, even as it may be forgiven.
“God created the world with a plan in mind. We are included in it, each of us. Prayer, for me, has always depended on dogma. To pray is also to seek the truth of what is. Only the truth can make us free. We pray for so many others. We also pray for the Church that it remain the bridge between this world and the next” (source: The Catholic Thing).
A “bridge between this world and the next,” like the rooster-topped cross pointing heavenward that fell with the spire of Notre Dame into the ashes and which was raised by the genius of men high over Paris before being consumed by the flames of this world. Monuments last only for a time, the cathedral and the man tell us; only God reigns eternally.
Many of us mourned the falling roof timbers and vaulting stones of Notre Dame, riveted and hearts torn as we watched tweeted videos of the devouring flames in real time. We were compelled into prayer, faced as we were by the hard reality of the fierce force of nature unleashed upon man’s most beautiful and noble achievements. Our human temptation to feel powerless was answered by the divine call of God to enter into the real time of His burning furnace of charity in the heart of his Son.
The archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, reminded us all after the fire of the true reason for the “jewel box” of Notre Dame. Why was it built? What is its purpose?
“Why was this beauty built? What jewel was this case meant to contain? Not the crown of thorns (a relic saved from the fire), but a piece of bread that we believe is the Body of Christ” (source: Catholic News Agency).
Yes, the Heart of the Son is alive, risen from the dead, in the heart of our cities. We need only rise from the death of our unbelief, take the risk of trusting in His living words and His victorious life, handed down in unbroken tradition: the same tradition which gave birth to Fr. Schall’s learning sending many others over the years into the world with the light of Christ’s truth and teaching, as well as the magnificent Gothic beauty of Notre Dame which draws millions from all over the world to itself each year, speaking always of the living Son reserved Eucharistically within.
Heroes we have, too, who light our way with hope. The firefighters of Paris rushed into the burning behemoth with molten lead falling like hellish rain upon them and their bravery stopped the full effects of the flames, which threatened to reduce the cathedral completely to ashes. Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier, the fire chaplain and a previous military chaplain and hero of the Bataclan theater massacre, was among the first to rush into the cathedral after the fire started to rescue the Blessed Sacrament, the relics of our Lord’s Passion, and the tunicle of St. Louis.
Priestly even in those moments of looming catastrophe, he blessed the cathedral and the men fighting the flames with the Eucharistic blessing of Our Lord Himself in the sacrament. These everyday heroes also remind us of the bravery each of us is called to and to which each of us is called daily, strengthened as we are by faith in the Easter victory of our Lord over sin and death. We die to ourselves when we live for others no matter how threatened, either by physical danger or the corrosive culture which militates against the saving grace of faith.
The copper rooster, which once topped the spire of Notre Dame, falling with it into the ashes of the nave and later recovered, is a warning to the Church and her ministers that we must ever rise again from sleep and warn a drowsing world of the call of faith to eternal life through repentance for sin.
Life on Earth is a perpetual rising from the ashes of sin, and death, and a rising once again to life through God’s mercy. The same faith which inspired the Medievals to raise the magnificent stone pile of Notre Dame over their city and which illuminated the life and teaching of James V. Schall, SJ, remains our greatest treasure. Let us dedicate ourselves anew to this work of glorifying God and saving souls in His holy Church, alive with the beating heart of Our Risen Lord Jesus truly present with us “until the end of the world.”
Amen. “He is truly risen, Alleluia!”
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
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