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Jesus Lives, Alleluia!

During the Holy Mass of the joyous Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we read from the Book of Acts how the first disciples of our Lord testified to Him, His whole life and especially His Resurrection.  “Peter proceeded to speak and said: ‘You know what has happened all over Judea beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.  He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.  We are witnesses of all that He did, both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.  They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree.  This man God raised on the third day and granted that He be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that He is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.  To Him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins through His name.’” (Acts 10:34a, 37-43)

In this year of focusing on discipleship, we see in this reading from the Book of Acts, on the most holy of days within the entire liturgical year, exactly the role of a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Now when we gather for the celebration of Holy Mass on Easter, we certainly are struck with the holiness and majesty of the events of the Resurrection themselves, the empty tomb, the early faith of the first apostles, the conquering of sin and death in the power of the Resurrection, but within this we are spectators.  It is rather in our reflection on the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles that we enter into the story as we take up our role of disciples and witnesses. 

Once again this year we will come to our parish churches, after having passed through the time of Lenten preparation, and we will witness the liturgical presentation of the ever-present reality of the Resurrection of our Lord, of His conquering death for the forgiveness of our sins, and of His rising from the dead to give us eternal life.  During the liturgy of the Resurrection and the Easter Day Mass we will encounter the living Christ as did the apostles and disciples.  We will experience the great joy, as did the apostles and disciples, that Jesus is once again present with us.  But if we are truly disciples of Jesus, then we cannot just take this joy as the end of the story and retire with the satisfaction that Jesus has now done the work of conquering sin and death. 

We must remember that the season of Easter, the extension of this Resurrection event, is just as long and serious as the time of preparation.   If we have taken the time to act as disciples and spend the weeks of the Lenten season in increased prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a preparation to walk the way of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, then how close will we walk with Him now in the time of Resurrection?  As a moving line from the Stations of the Cross states, will we turn our passive love into active loyalty?

It is within the Acts of the Apostles read and proclaimed on the morning of the Resurrection that begins to point the way.  First we see Peter acknowledge the saving acts of Jesus throughout His  entire ministry, “what happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.  He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”  In this, as disciples of Jesus, we recognize and affirm the power of God that was expressed within His ministry and His teaching.  We acknowledge that His teachings and healings are saving acts which lead to the salvation of many.  And as disciples, we also acknowledge that this is the way that we must follow as well.  We, like Jesus, must also go about “doing good and healing.”  If the season of Lent is somewhat inward directed through prayer and fasting, the Easter season is one that is assuredly outward directed in seeking to “do good and heal” in following the ways of Jesus Who is now our victorious Lord.

Secondly in our role as disciples and followers of Jesus, we find ourselves alongside the Apostle Peter in announcing, “We are witness of all that He did,” that “they put Him to death,” and that “God raised Him on the third day and granted that He be visible.”  We witness to the fact that in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we see the way and model of how we are to act and live and be.  We also acknowledge that Jesus was put to death, as a sacrifice for our sins.  Each time we gather for Holy Mass, each time we receive Holy Communion, we know that when we “eat this bread and drink the cup” we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)  We witness to the fact that the salvation of the Lord, while obtained once and for all upon the hill of Calvary, is a present and active reality within our world and especially our Church today.  And finally we, as disciples, acknowledge that “God raised Him from the dead.”  We proclaim that Jesus is the conqueror, that He not only lives but He is also the one Who grants life through His death and Resurrection. 

We also know that St. Peter leads us to be ones who “preach to the people and testify that [Jesus] is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.”  Now of course for the clergy this verse has a particularly strong meaning as the ones who stand in the direct line of the apostles and are called to a ministry of sacramental preaching, but in fact it also speaks to all Christian disciples as each of us takes a full part in the priesthood of all believers.  In that role as disciples of Jesus, we not only offer worship to God when we gather within our churches, but we are also to be ones who go forth to show the love and power of Jesus to the whole world.  We preach to the whole world, in how we live, in what we think, how we act and how we treat one another.  In other words our discipleship is not one of mere thought or internal belief, but it is rather an external one which shows to the whole world who we are and whose we are.  We are followers of Christ, who follow His way in all things and we are also ones who truly belong to Him and are penetrated by His life in every possible way.

As we gather this Easter Sunday and celebrate the eternal fact that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, lives, let us also at this moment proclaim with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)  May our Easter celebration be true joy that Christ Jesus has conquered death and now lives, but let it also be true joy that Christ lives in each of us and calls us to be His disciples.  This also is cause for great joy.

To my brother Bishops, the Very Rev. and Rev. Fathers, the Deacons and all of the faithful of the Polish National Catholic Church and the Nordic Catholic Church, to those with whom we join in dialogue and to all Christians of good faith, I extend my prayers and blessings that the Resurrection of Christ, our Lord causes us to acknowledge Him ever stronger as the Lord of all and causes us to seek to serve Him in new and profound ways of discipleship.

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