An Easter Exhortation

We’ve had quite a week of gatherings here in Washington, D.C. during this Easter Octave. The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast was held on Tuesday and I was privileged to be able to speak to the organizers of that event on Monday evening. On Friday there was a wonderful gathering of leaders from EWTN and our local affiliate, WMET 1160 AM. Catholic radio and Catholic television have had a profound effect on the lives and faith of so many!

Despite the Easter glow, there was also at those gatherings a sober awareness that these are dark days and that the Lord is calling us to be willing to suffer and sacrifice for the truth of the gospel.

Recent readings from Scripture have also had 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).

I have written before on the bloodiness of the Christmas Octave; the Easter Octave is not much different. The ancient Church had little time for the sentimentality we have introduced into the celebrations of Christmas and Easter. Indeed, there was no Santa Claus with flying reindeer, no Easter bunny, no Easter parades. 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,            (Death and life have contended)
conflixere mirando:           (in a stupendous conflict)
dux vitae mortuus,             (The Prince of life having died)
regnat vivus!                         (Now reigns living).

Easter is serious business with a message that summons us to the battle with confidence. In effect the message is this:

Enough of all this cowardice. No more hiding out in upper rooms. Get out there like soldiers who know they 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 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. We are going to need this in the years ahead. This fallen world is going to get darker, and a people used to the darkness despises the light. To those who hate the truth, it 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” will 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.

This is my Easter exhortation. What do you think of it? If you think it is too negative, why? If you like it, great. Will you live it? How? When? Why not now?

Catholic catechist, speaker, and writer Dr. David Anders spoke to us at the EWTN/WMET gathering about something Mother Angelica once said. When asked what she thought the future of EWTN would be she said, “Nothing lasts forever. For now, we have an open window of opportunity and we should use it while we can. For one day, the window may close and EWTN will be declared illegal. Let’s strengthen everyone now, while we still have the time”—a sober understanding to say the least. Courage and action today will lay the groundwork for what will be needed tomorrow.

Jesus is risen from the dead and He is not going away. He has won the victory and I will either gather souls with Him, or I 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!

The song in the clip below has these lyrics:

I told Jesus it would be alright if He changed my name
I told Jesus it would be alright if He changed my name
I told Jesus it would be alright if He changed my name
And He told me that I would go hungry if He changed my name
And He told me that I would go hungry if He changed my name
Yes He told me that I would go hungry if He changed my name
But I told Jesus it would be alright if He changed my name
I told Jesus it would be alright if He changed my name
So I told Him it would be alright and the world would hate me
That I would go hungry if He changed my name

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: An Easter Exhortation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.