Bishop Bernard A. Hebda
Special to The Catholic Weekly
As a result of an accident in Rome and a full cast on my leg, the last six weeks have found me largely homebound, identifying with Jimmy Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.”
While trying to fulfill my role as Bishop as best I could from home, I nonetheless found myself repeatedly gazing out the window at the “back 40”, giving me a new familiarity with the work of our Creator here in Gaylord. As Providence would have it, I have had a front row seat as an icy and barren tableau has been transformed into a three-dimensional masterpiece teeming with life waking up after a long winter. The days are longer, the skies are brighter, and all of creation seems to be at its best.
What a blessing for me that the transition so closely paralleled our liturgical journey through Lent to Easter. The connection is no accident. As our Holy Father Pope Benedict noted last Easter, “Just as the sun’s rays in springtime cause the buds on the branches of the trees to sprout and open up, so the radiance that streams forth from Christ’s resurrection gives strength and meaning to every human hope, to every expectation, wish and plan.” In that context, our pilgrimage through Lent to Easter serves as our annual reminder of our need for the new life that Jesus alone can offer as He awakens us from the sleep of sin and death. From St. Paul to John Paul, from Ephesus to Onekama, our Easter celebrations sing forth: Awake, o sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will bring you light.
In our Roman Catholic tradition, those who gather for the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday morning hear the words of that ancient hymn in the context of a magnificent 4th century Easter homily describing the joyful reunion between Adam and his Savior: that long-awaited moment when the Risen Christ, the New Adam, brings light and life to the old: I order you, o sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell … Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image… the banquet is ready … the treasure house of all good things lies open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.
From those of us who claim to be followers of Christ, a skeptical world weighed down by recession and relativism is awaiting a response that might give credibility to that proclamation. How can the life of a believer not radiate with joy at such good news? How can we doubt the value of a human life, no matter how defenseless, when we’re reminded of all that Christ, seeing our potential, did to restore life and to save it from the clutches of sin and death? How can we not wipe the sand out of our sleepy eyes and allow the light of Christ to lead us to lives of deeper love, greater generosity toward those in need and renewed forgiveness for those who have hurt us?
As a Catholic, I have always been grateful that the Church gives us a whole octave of days to celebrate the Easter victory and a whole season — the 50 days leading up to Pentecost — to consider and explore the ways in which we might allow the Easter mystery to penetrate and transform our lives. Let us use this time of lengthening days and rising temperatures to remind us of Christ’s Easter victory over death and darkness so that we might share the Light of Christ with all of our brothers and sisters, humbly but convincingly proclaiming with our very lives that Christ is risen! He is truly risen! †