OLD THINGS MADE NEW
By Fr. Chris Valka, CSB
Today (Easter Sunday) marks the defining moment of our faith, our Church, our parish and our lives. Nothing is the same after the resurrection. Christ’s triumph is what separates Christianity from all other religions. Look closely at any religion and you will find great teachers and teachings; martyrs and ideas that better humanity, but only one man rose from the dead. The world would never be the same after the first Easter Sunday.
Everything we believe and practice hinges on the resurrection, and so it is fitting that we give this celebration everything we have. Here at St. Basil’s, I have joked with several parishioners that as soon as we finishing celebrating the risen Christ, I am going to fall with exhaustion like the stone he rolled away!
Good celebrations take a lot of work, and they are certainly a team effort – not just the ministers and volunteers – but all of us. If you are at our parish this weekend, then you played a part in the celebration, so let me take this moment to thank you for helping us celebrate!
That said, some folks deserve more gratitude than others. There are many that put in a great many hours to prepare long before we opened the doors on Saturday night. In fact even before the liturgies began, some came out to help us clean the church so that it would shine with all the glory our Savior deserves.
Those of you who know me, know that I like a clean church and have spent a lot of time cleaning the place since I arrived last July. Part of my cleaning before Holy Week including repairing parts of the bell tower and finally cleaning the windows. I must admit that I was amazed how well they cleaned up, and it made me think of how often we through things out because they are not new, when really they just need a little love. . . or elbow grease.
This great old church is a good example of how beautiful old things and traditions can be – kind of like Mass on Easter Sunday. If you are a visitor to our parish, my hope is that we will see you again – that you will come back to see just how much more there is to see and experience. Perhaps you can help us to do a few new things with some of the old things? Perhaps this can be your resurrection moment? Perhaps you will look back years from now and say things really weren’t quite the same after this Easter?
And if you already call this parish home. . . well. . . I have the same hope for you too. May we all work together to celebrate the resurrection every day we are together!
THIS WEEK IS UNLIKE ANY OTHER
By Fr. Chris Valka, CSB
Holy Week has begun. Everything is now set in motion: Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem precedes his arrest, which is followed by his trial, which precedes his sentence, which is followed by his torture and death. Everything is connected.
There is a reason we read the Passion in such a dramatic fashion, with several lectors reading the various parts of each character: only when we see the big picture do we begin to feel and see the drama of the tragedy which is highlighted by characters of the story. The innocent Jesus next to the revolutionary Barabbas; the Jewish authorities who mock alongside the Roman solider who respects; the weeping women in the midst of the chaotic crowd; and so on.
Each character read in a different voice allows us to participate in a more profound manner; to ask ourselves how we would react to the events unfolding before us? Sure, we hold palms thinking how wonderful it would have been to welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, but it is more likely that we would have been like the Apostles who fled or even Peter who denied? Or might we have been like the Pharisees who condemn? When we look back at our own life, which character in the Passion are we most closely compared to?
All I ask is that you take time this week to consider such questions, for this week is not like any other. It is a week, when we are changed and defined – perhaps even redefined; but only if we take time to allow ourselves to enter the story.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
By Emily VanBerkum
The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is one of my favourite biblical narratives found only in the Gospel of John. Early on in the narrative, we learn that Lazarus of Bethany, brother to Mary and Martha, fell ill and that God would somehow be glorified through his illness. Even with a risk to his safety, Jesus returned to Judea to “wake” Lazarus from his “sleep.” As a true miracle, Jesus resuscitates Lazarus’ physical body in order to reveal himself as a sign of the “resurrection and the life.” In so doing, we discover that whoever “lives and believes in Christ will never die.” Significantly, this revelation reminds us that God’s gift of eternal life in Christ exists in the present, i.e. even now in our physical lives we may accept in good faith that there is something beyond this life waiting for us in death. Herein lies the good news of this Gospel account. In this encounter, Jesus models for us the great glory of the resurrection which points to the impending Easter event!
Ultimately, the raising of Lazarus is a sign of hope. Hope that Christ’s life will find its fulfillment in death on a cross. Is it not incredible that by believing in Jesus, we pass from death into life? My Catholic faith, and firm belief in God’s steadfast love has convinced me that death never has the final say- there is and must be spiritual life beyond our earthly existence. Whereas Lazarus was resuscitated to resume life in his mortal body so that he would one day die again, Christ resurrected from the dead, taking on a glorified spiritual body that would know eternal life with God the Father. Christ’s death makes it possible for us to share in this reality. In preparation for Easter, I encourage our community to consider what it means to have eternal life in Christ. Why do we wait in joyful hope of the resurrection? Is there a spiritual life beyond death? If not, what’s the point?