The Providence of God wisely determined that Jesus Christ should rise from the dead during Israel’s springtime. And Christ rose not only in the spring but also in a garden. Succeeding generations of believers throughout the world have seized upon springtime’s abundant flora to highlight the Christian belief that the empty tomb heralded a rebirth of both nature and grace. Glorious lilies, golden daffodils, grand hydrangeas, gorgeous azaleas, glossy gardenias, and graceful tulips fill the Catholic world’s sanctuaries at Easter announcing the triumph of the Son of God over death.
The ponderous season of Lent and the tragic days of the Solemn Triduum yield to a brilliant new dawn, revealed by the rolled-back stone, the tossed-aside garments, the attendant angels, and the vacant cavern. Death, sadly merited for all mankind by Adam and Eve, is happily replaced by eternal life, earned by the Redeemer Jesus Christ. Indeed “Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!” — “Christ conquers! Christ reigns! Christ commands!” Well the Christian world might celebrate with fervor, festivities and flowers Christ’s victory over death and his Good News of life on high with God for all eternity.
This side of the grave, however, Christians must recall that Easter celebrates not only Christ’s victory over death but also Christ’s victory over sin! Eternal life would be miserable sentence were not the attraction of sin, the emptiness of sin and the effects of sin completely erased from humanity’s prospects. Christ’s victory over death certainly gives the believer hope for the next life. But Christ’s victory over sin gives the believer hope for this present life. Through the graces won by the Crucified and Risen Christ, mankind, even in this world, can overcome lethargy at worship, neglect of prayer, defiance of authority, anger when frustrated, lust of the eyes and mind, dishonesty in business, and harmful lies and gossip. The Gospel preached and achieved by Jesus Christ is not only full of promises, it is also full of grace, grace that can heal vice and strengthen virtue during every day of this earthly life.
St. Paul, in his first letter to the Christians at Corinth, read at Mass this Easter Sunday, urges his readership to take advantage of the saving graces won by Jesus Christ right here and now. St. Paul directs his converts to work here and now on eliminating from their lives all sin and error, all vice and evil. The Apostle writes, “Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”(1Cor.5:7). St. Paul presses his youthful Church to recognize that present sin must be recognized and assessed for the evil that it is. Then, relying on the new “unleavened bread” made available through the Risen Christ, believers may successfully grow into the fullness of the Christian life. And this salvific task is not something that can be postponed! Repentance and renewal are the substance of everyday Christian life. Heaven can wait! Conversion is the present task!
Lent has traditionally been a time when Catholics assume a few good works that might lead to inner renewal. Some Catholics decide to attend daily Mass, participate at the Stations of the Cross, put loose change into the annual Rice Bowl, and maybe forego some treat as a reminder of the seriousness of the Christian life. These seasonal resolutions are commendable. But every day in the life of the faithful must be a day of determination and resolve. Today indeed is the day for opening the Bible and reading a chapter. Today certainly is the day for going to confession. Today definitely is the day for picking up the phone and calling a sister or a brother that has not been seen for months. Today is the day for writing to a senator or representative or governor insisting that the sacredness of all life be enshrined into law. Today is the day to avoid that revolting computer. Today is the day for encouraging that new person at work.
The Easter season, from now until Pentecost, is the Church’s special time for accepting the graces showered by the Risen Christ upon his faithful followers, empowering them to construct a fruitful Christian daily life. Eradication of sin and progress in virtue in this life are just as much among the gifts of Christ’s Resurrection as is the pledge of glory in the next life. Let’s get down to business!
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