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An Easter Exhortation For Tough Times

April 21, 2021 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE

(Editor’s Note: Msgr. Pope posted this blog about living through a tough Easter Season on April 12.)

  • + + As we all know, this was perhaps the strangest Easter that any of us have experienced, at least collectively. The liturgical calendar shouts new life and victory over the grave, and yet throughout the world, many are hunkered down in the fear of death. Despite the Easter glow these are dark days for many who suffer illness or economic stress. But, to be sure, the first Easter was experienced in great uncertainty and danger.
    Recent readings from Scripture have this theme. The readings in daily Mass this past week (from the Acts of the Apostles) show the joy of a poor, lame man healed by Peter and John at the Gate called Beautiful. By week’s end Peter and John were arrested for the “dangerous” act of glorifying Jesus and forced to appear before the Jewish court. More suffering and arrests would follow.
    In the Office of Readings, we are reading from the First Letter of Peter, which is a kind of survival guide for those who suffer on account of Jesus. Consider these excerpts from this past week:
    “Do not be surprised, beloved, that a trial by fire is occurring in your midst. It is a test for you, but it should not catch you off guard. Rejoice instead, in the measure that you share Christ’s sufferings. When his glory is revealed, you will rejoice exultantly. Happy are you when you are insulted for the sake of Christ, for then God’s Spirit in its glory has come to rest on you. . . .
    “The season of judgment has begun, and begun with God’s own household. If it begins this way with us, what must be the end for those who refuse obedience to the gospel of God? And if the just man is saved only with difficulty, what is to become of the godless and the sinner? Accordingly, let those who suffer as God’s will requires continue in good deeds, and entrust their lives to a faithful Creator….
    “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith, realizing that the brotherhood of believers is undergoing the same sufferings throughout the world. The God of all grace, who called you to his everlasting glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish those who have suffered a little while. Dominion be his throughout the ages! Amen” (1 Peter 4:12-5:14).
    The ancient Church had little time for the sentimentality of Easter bunnies and Easter egg hunts. Jesus was born to do battle and rose to show forth the victory. But a victory presupposes a battle and a struggle.
    The Sequence that should be sung during the Easter Octave is as follows:

Mors et vita duello,
conflixere mirando:
dux vitae mortuus,
regnat vivus!

Or:

Death and life have contended
In a stupendous conflict
The Prince of life having died
Now reigns living.

Easter is serious business with a message that summons us to the battle with confidence. In effect the message is this:
The Pentecost experience seemed to convict and encourage them and us: Enough of all this cowardice. No more hiding out in upper rooms. Get out there like soldiers who know you are on the winning team. Manfully engage the battle and win some souls for Christ. As in any war, there is going to be suffering. Jesus says, In this world you shall have tribulation; but have confidence I have overcome the world (John 16:33). The Easter message is not that there is no battle, but rather that the battle is a glorious one whose outcome has already been decided. Choose sides!
Scripture says,
“Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His Blood, who has made us into a Kingdom, priests for His God and Father, to Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. All the peoples of the earth will lament Him. Yes, Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘the One who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Rev. 1:5-8).
Make sure you are on the winning team. Some people foolishly choose the wrong side, thinking that winning means having power, popularity, money, and possessions — that is not victory. A team can be ahead until the final play of the game yet still lose. You already know who is going to win; present appearances mean nothing. Choose the winning team even if, for now, it means being subjected to suffering, ridicule, disapproval, and desertion. Be ready and willing to suffer for the Kingdom. The Easter message is not that there is no suffering, but that our suffering, united to Jesus’, will lead to glory and victory.
Stop acting like a loser, hiding out and being afraid to announce the truth of the Gospel. Stop being so anxious about what others are saying. You may be called hateful, bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, backward, and uptight — anything but a child of God. Do not hate them, but keep on summoning them to join us; know that some will do so if you persevere. Be willing to suffer for the truth and still remain joyful.
Peter and John were arrested in the first week after Pentecost; can’t we at least tolerate a raised eyebrow or some laughter at our expense? The martyrs stared down deadly threats; they endured the swords and lions of a hateful, scornful world. Must they bear the cross alone?
The Easter message is not one of cheap joy. It is about a courageous transformation that equips us to be willing to face down death in order to proclaim the truth of the Gospel. Even after this plague ends, we are going to need courage and perseverance in the months and years ahead.
This fallen world has been getting darker, and a people who are used to the darkness despise the light. To those who hate the truth, the truth seems hateful; they will call themselves righteous as they expel us from the public square. They already label themselves victims at the mere utterance of moral truth. “Safe zones” have no room for us. Despite all their calls for tolerance, there will be no tolerance shown to us. Our speech and our actions will be increasingly criminalized. Thus, beyond the plague, these challenges still face us.
So here is an Easter exhortation in tough times. But remember, Jesus is risen from the dead and He is not going away. He has won the victory and we will either gather souls with Him, or we will scatter and squander. I will work for Him and win, or I will contend with Him and lose. I think I’ll choose Jesus!

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