I began my Ash Wednesday homily talking about this wonderful season of grace and how we are being offered an invitation to enter into a very powerful period in the church year. I ended it with, “Today Jesus — the one who loves us more than we can imagine — is calling us to himself in an ever-deeper way, inviting us into his endless forgiveness and mercy and asking us to return whole-heartedly to his loving embrace. His outstretched arms are waiting for us.”
We are now much closer to the end of this season of grace preparing for Easter. Jesus’ outstretched arms are still waiting for us. They are always waiting for us. God’s deepest desire is to have a relationship with those to whom he has called his own. In the Liturgy of the Word at the Easter Vigil we will be led on a journey through our salvation history, seeing through the eyes of faith the love with which God cared for his people, beginning with the story of creation, moving to the rescue of his people from the slavery of Pharaoh. Then God made an everlasting covenant with his people and claimed them once more as his own. We see ourselves in those stories when we recall the ways of our ancestors in faith. God is always calling us to himself.
The resurrection is woven in to the fabric of all these stories. Through eyes of faith, we can see and believe it. These stories reveal who we are as the people of God, what God has done for us, what God is doing for us, and what God will continue to do for us because of the suffering, death and resurrection of his Son.
Like the Israelite people wandered through the desert these last 40 days, and like the catechumens who have been on this forty day retreat during Lent, we too find ourselves discovering a God who has offered us a new way of living. In Lent we cast aside our covenant with death so that we can embrace the new covenant of life that Jesus offers us at Easter. Jesus has passed through death and brought us to the new and eternal covenant.
This covenant comes alive in the Easter Sacraments. This covenant will come alive when catechumens enter the waters of life. St. Paul says, “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a newness of life.” Through baptism, God has made a claim on each one of us for all eternity. We renew this relationship in a special way allowing ourselves to be embraced once again by those outstretched arms of his beloved Son.
As the catechumens and candidates will experience the power of the Holy Spirit through confirmation, that same Spirit stirs within our own hearts so that we might be strengthened once again for Christ’s mission. As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Father always hears the prayer of his Son’s Church which … expresses her faith in the power of the Spirit. As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power (CCC #1127).
Our new Catholics will receive food for their journey as Jesus shares with them his body and blood, the bread of life and the cup of the new and everlasting covenant in this most intimate encounter. It too, is a gift for us each time we share in this covenant.
Through the sacramental life of the church we are all subjected to the Spirit’s transforming power. The Holy Spirit leads and guides all Christians into the mission of the church and into the outstretched arms of Jesus. We are led by the Spirit into the New Evangelization – sharing the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus with others. It is the call of each of us. Our eternal life and the eternal lives of others are dependent upon it.
Pope John Paul II, in a speech to ecclesial movements and new communities, expressed it this way. “Whenever the Spirit intervenes, he leaves people astonished. He brings about events of amazing newness; He radically changes persons in history. He also distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank, makes him fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up the church.”
May we always be astonished by the power and glory of the resurrection, allowing the Lord Jesus to radically change us, giving us courage to go into the world to proclaim this Good News!
Through the Easter mysteries, God has intervened and spoken from the darkness, shedding his light on the world for all ages. When we embrace fully these great mysteries, we will always find ourselves in those outstretched arms, whether they are on the cross or awaiting us into eternity.
May Jesus set your hearts afire with his love, and may your Easter season be a rebirth of peace, hope and joy. My blessings and love to you all.