Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization
"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"
Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.
Monday, March 28, 2016
The Resurrection assures us that Christ conquers all evil – Easter 2016
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
In the Maronite Rite, there is a beautiful prayer which the priest says as he leaves the altar at the end of the liturgy. It is the “Farewell to the Altar” and it highlights the significance of the Eucharist we celebrate as well as the sense of sorrow and longing we would feel should we be forced to live without it.
Remain in peace, O holy altar of God.
May the offering that I have received from you forgive my sins
and prepare me to stand blameless before the throne of Christ
I do not know if I will be able return and offer another sacrifice upon you.
Protect me, O Lord, and preserve your holy Church as the way to truth and salvation.
This same sentiment gives rise to the old adage in the Roman Rite:
O priest of God, say this Mass as if it were your first, your last, your only Mass.
The Mass and the gift of the Eucharist is a treasure we as Catholics hold so very dear. If we were robbed of it we would feel the pain of spiritual malnourishment. This is not a sentiment only for priests. Every Catholic is given the opportunity to share in intimate union with Jesus in the Mass.
This is the feeling that overwhelms the hearts of persecuted Christians throughout the world today – in Africa, Asia, the Middle East. They do not know if they will be able to offer another Sacrifice of the Mass. They might be murdered before they can return to church. What we take for granted, or even skip sometimes when we would rather sleep or golf, is for many Christians a privilege so precious that they risk life and limb for it.
This is the feeling of priests who are not free to pray the Mass, priests who are imprisoned. It is the experience of priests like Fr. Tom, the priest captured by ISIS in Yemen several days ago when the four nuns were killed. Allegedly, he is to be crucified by ISIS. He knows not whether he will ever return to the altar.
This was the experience of priests and Catholics in the concentration camps of the Third Reich. They smuggled in the necessary elements, not only for Mass, but for priestly ordinations, for these sacraments were so important to them. They risked torture and death in order to remain faithful to Jesus. They knew not if they would ever return to an altar to offer Mass in public again.
When we bid farewell to the altar at the end of Mass, we need to be keenly aware of the gift we have received and, therefore, filled with gratitude and expectation until we meet the Lord again in the Eucharist.
For those persecuted Christians throughout the world, each farewell to the altar is not a casual event like it is for us as we depart to go back to our comparatively comfortable homes. For persecuted Christians, bidding farewell to the altar involves a twinge of sadness, knowing that death may come before the next opportunity to receive the Lord.
Persecution, also called genocide, is a reality for Christians in many places today. There is something mysterious that encourages Christians throughout the world and down through the centuries to persevere in their faith and remain loyal to Christ no matter the odds.
This “mysterious something” is the Risen Lord. We Catholic Christians have faith, not in a philosophy or ideology or text but in a person, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary. The Risen Jesus walks with us and sustains us even in the most frightening times. He is light when we are in darkness, peace when we are afraid, hope when we are gasping for breath. We know we need Jesus so badly and we cannot live without Him.
Christians everywhere draw strength from the love of the Risen Jesus. Whatever trials or obstacles we face, the knowledge that Jesus Christ rose triumphant over the grave bolsters our faith so that nothing this world or the evil one throw at us will ultimately bring us down! Even if we were tortured for our faith and robbed of the blessed opportunity to consume the Eucharist at the altar, we know He is real, He is alive and He loves us!
Saint Paul tells us that our faith would be in vain had Jesus not risen from the grave. God did all He could do to achieve our salvation by giving His Son, who died on the Cross. The Cross won the victory over sin. Still, if there were no Resurrection, Calvary would just be another man’s tragic death. Death would be the end. The Resurrection confirms that all that Jesus did on the Cross, all that He accepted and endured – the thorns, the whip, the nails, the bleeding and suffocation – was not in vain and was not just the sad death of a pathetic criminal among so many crucified in those days. The Resurrection affirms that Jesus is alive. He is God, who alone can conquer death and, therefore, His death means everything. His Passion is the self-sacrifice of the Son of God. His death means victory over all evil.
If Jesus has power over the grave, He has power over everything else – our sins, addictions, tragedies, sufferings, persecutions and trials. Through the Eucharist, that power is poured into us. As we worthily consume the Lord, we are filled with His grace. All the things over which we feel powerless, we give to Jesus. Jesus can destroy them.
The Cross in ancient times would have been a ridiculous choice for a religious symbol, as if someone today took the image of a noose or an electric chair and held it high as a sign of victory. The people of ancient Rome worshiped Caesar, crying out as they greeted each other on the streets “Caesar is lord!” The cross was Caesar’s horrific instrument of torture and death. Saint Paul turns the ancient routine on its head when he declares “Jesus is Lord!” and we glory in His Cross, for it is the instrument of our salvation!
By dying Christ has trampled death and by rising has restored life to all who grasp His hand as He reaches out to lift us up to new and abundant life.
The Exsultet, sung at the Easter Vigil, declares that “this day sets Christians apart.” The Resurrection indeed sets us apart, not just because we believe in Jesus but because of what He did for us. As Christ’s flock, we have been restored to life by the Paschal Mystery of the Lord and are truly set apart from the world by Baptism – set apart to have deep faith in Jesus and remain close to Him, set apart to celebrate that faith in daily prayer and the sacraments, set apart to teach that faith to every person who has ears to hear us.
Christ is risen and with Him rises all our hopes and the promise of everlasting life. God is alive and well in our midst and we shall not be overcome by this world’s evils. Jesus gives is a love, a peace, a comfort, a strength which only He can give – a love which the world cannot never take away. Jesus is risen!