Thursday, April 8, 2010
Easter Guest Post by Fr. Don Hying
I've frequently quoted my dear friend, Fr. Don Hying, on this blog. He is a fantastic writer with wisdom in his words that gives me food for thought and always satisfies my hunger for the Lord in one way or another. Fr. Don is the Rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee and writes both a monthly newsletter for the Seminary and a monthly column for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald. He is also a frequently requested guest speaker at many Archdiocesan events, and has his own radio program, "New Heart, New Spirit", on our local Relevant Radio Station. Fr. Don has given me a wonderful Easter gift; he has generously agreed to allow me to post his most recent Catholic Herald column on my blog. I am thrilled to share Fr. Don's Easter column with you and I pray that you, dear reader, will find it to be as wonderful and thought provoking as I do. It is my hope that Fr. Don will agree to become a regular guest writer at Imprisoned in my Bones.
Last year I was blessed to go to the Holy Land for the first time; the highlight of the trip was celebrating the Eucharist inside the tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I felt like I was standing at the center of the cosmos, for this was the spot where the greatest event in the history of the world took place!
As we celebrate Easter, the Church goes back in her mind and heart to that extraordinary Sunday morning when, against all expectation, the women find the tomb of Christ empty and breathlessly run back to tell the apostles. The rising of Jesus from the dead is more than the resuscitation of a corpse; having conquered sin and death, the risen Christ now has a glorified and saving relationship with all of humanity and indeed the entire cosmos. Mistaken for a gardener, a ghost, an anonymous traveling companion, he starts appearing to Mary Magdalene, the apostles, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, 500 brothers at once. The risen Christ could not be restrained by locked doors or fearful hearts anymore than a sealed and dark tomb could hold him.
Clearly, from the day of Pentecost until the end of time, the mission of the Church is to proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ as the foundational event of human history, as the definitive salvation won for everyone through the loving plan of the Father, the obedience of the Son and the working of the Holy Spirit. In every proclamation of the Gospel, in every celebration of a sacrament, in every action of charity and mercy, the Church makes present in this time and place, for these people gathered the saving power of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The Acts of the Apostles testifies to the extraordinary success of this endeavor, right from the beginning of Christianity.
What are the events in our lives that serve as our spiritual foundation, those experiences that we return to time and time again in order to draw strength, inspiration and energy to move forward? The birth of children, the day of your wedding, a miraculous healing from sickness, the holy death of a loved one, a religious profession or an ordination, an unexpected moment of grace that led to conversion. All of us have those fundamental “peak” encounters with God which serve as guideposts for the rest of our life’s journey home.
The day of my ordination to the priesthood was the second greatest day of my life, (after my baptism which, like most of us, I cannot remember.) God was so real to me that day I could have reached out and touched Him. Whenever I am tired, discouraged, fearful or overwhelmed, I simply go back in my mind and heart to that glorious day and I am renewed. It is like sticking a finger into an electrical socket. The joy, promise, love and energy flow into my body, soul, mind and heart.
What ordination day is for me is what the resurrection of Jesus Christ is for the whole Church, but with one absolutely fundamental difference. We do not simply go back into the recesses of history to discover the risen Christ; he is gloriously alive, present and active in our midst within the mystery of the Church! Last October, in a presentation he gave here at the seminary, Bishop Blaise Cupich of Rapid City, South Dakota offered his assessment of the greatest problem facing the Church and his answer was not the one I was expecting. He didn’t talk about any of the crises reported in the newspapers; instead, he spoke about many Catholics’ fundamental misunderstanding that the risen Christ is truly, actively and gloriously present, right here and now, in our lives. Too often, we think and speak of Jesus as a historical figure who did great things but has passed from the scene.
How different life becomes when we expect the risen Lord to pop up somewhere in our lives every day. Assuredly, we will not recognize Him at first, just like the apostles didn’t. Probably, we will not fully understand what he is truly saying or asking of us. But when we put on the sacred lens of the resurrection, we start seeing Jesus everywhere! In that homeless man on the corner, in the splendor of the rising sun, in the gentle power of the Eucharist, in our family and friends, in the mystical truth of an El Greco painting and perhaps most surprisingly within ourselves. In God’s timetable, 2000 years is the blink of an eye, so it was just the day before yesterday that Mary Magdalene ran down the path with the astonishing news that the tomb was empty. The risen Christ lives, breathes and walks among us and within us. That Gospel should make us get up and dance! A blessed Easter!