Father Michael F.X. Hinkley
What we celebrate in the paschal mystery is not only the center of the Christian story, it is the center of reality itself. Through the death and Resurrection of Jesus, the true meaning of life comes into relief and affords us the occasion to redirect our lives according to the plan of our Creator. This is where we find the birth of true hope and grace.
From the start, I should note that some miss the profound meaning of Easter because of the fact that it isn’t easy to enter the mystery of the divine love revealed in the paschal mystery. In this holiest mystery, God is revealing the actual nature of love and how God chooses to love his people. We can spend much of our lives going to church and never fully coming to terms with the magnitude of God’s unconditional love for us!
This limitation in faith is not reserved to a few. All believers are in need of ongoing and deeper conversion. Pope John Paul II referred to this as the New Evangelization that centers on the central truths of our Catholic faith with the intent of bringing a greater and more dynamic life to the faith of all believers.
In other words, we are all in need of further development and renewal of our faith lives. Jesus, as our savior, died on the Cross, descended into hell and then rose on the third day, Easter morning. The Beloved Son, the one free of sin, without reservation, pays the great price for our sins. He pays our debt so that we may know the freedom born of God’s love.
Jesus of Nazareth suffers in our place. In this Easter season it is timely to reflect on this profound and central truth of our faith.
Much has been said over the last few years regarding Christ’s Passion. Many opinions were formed a few years ago when Mel Gibson released his film about the Passion. The film depicted the brutal horror of Christ’s suffering and death.
The greater meaning of Christ’s Passion is realized once we seek to find an answer to why Christ allows and then endures such evil. The dogmatic answer is direct and simple – out of love and obedience to his Father’s will. Yes, the Father wills that his Son suffer the physical pain to flesh and bone! Here, suffering goes beyond the mere physical to become the deepest spiritual and moral suffering possible.
In every way and aspect of his person, Jesus suffers. The darkest hour of Christ’s life is that moment when he felt that God had abandoned him. He, the second person of the Trinity, couldn’t find God!
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus’ experience of this loss enables us to turn in prayer to the dark experience of the Lord when we can’t find or feel God’s presence. It is a profound grace to realize, in our own spiritual life, that at once sin is the rejection of God and that the be-loved Son willingly took this darkness onto himself. He paid the price for our rejection of God’s law so that we would be spared. He experienced the ungodly so that we could be spared!
What is more, after going to hell, Christ rose from the dead, providing real hope for all mankind. The Savior not only suffered and died, but he also rose to provide the triumph over the grave that promises eternal life. This is the Good News that comforts everyone who grieves the death of a loved one. Our faith is a radical belief that though the body lies in death, the person will live in the Resurrection.
In fact, we hold the certain hope that through God’s mercy, we will rise in mind, body and spirit. A totally restored life free of all sin and the corrupt effects of death! Once this realization enters our conscious spiritual life, we must undergo a profound conversion that changes our relationship with God and every facet of our life and world. In this way, we truly are an Easter people. We are completely changed by the death and Resurrection of the Lord.
Our homes may be indistinguishable from our neighbor’s, our jobs may look no different from anyone else’s, our dress may seem much the same as another’s, but the source of our hope and what gives meaning to our lives is uniquely Christian. As we observe the Easter season, may we grow ever more mindful of the profound consequences of the Lord’s triumph in our own lives!
With degrees in spiritual theology, marriage and family studies and a doctorate in moral theology, Father Hinkley is the Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church and School and of the Shrine of St. Anne for All Mothers in Waterbury.