By Deirdre A. McQuade
MARCH 25, 2013
Easter arrived quite early this year. For those of us in temperate climate zones, a chill still hovered, but signs of new life were starting to appear. Such seasonal signs are reminders that Jesus Christ suffered, died, and was buried, and that on the third day he rose and conquered death.
Eighteen years ago, in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), Blessed John Paul II called us to follow “the way of love and true mercy…upon which faith in Christ the Redeemer, who died and rose again, sheds ever new light.”
It is common for churches to be packed for Easter services. Perhaps it is because every human heart is made by God to seek the reality of the resurrection. Everyone, especially those who have suffered the loss of loved ones, seeks consolation and companionship in the face of our mortality.
The Holy Father continued: “The request which arises from the human heart in the supreme confrontation with suffering and death, especially when faced with the temptation to give up in utter desperation, is above all a request for companionship, sympathy and support in the time of trial. It is a plea for help to keep on hoping when all human hopes fail” (EV, no. 67). He was commenting especially on patients with terminal illnesses, who are at risk of euthanasia in today’s culture. But his remarks are relevant for all of us who need to remember our mortality, and the victory that has been won over death, in order to have the right perspective on our lives.
Blessed John Paul II refers to Vatican II’s affirmation that “man rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to mere matter.” He explains: “This natural aversion to death and this incipient hope of immortality are illumined and brought to fulfillment by Christian faith, which both promises and offers a share in the victory of the Risen Christ….The certainty of future immortality and hope in the promised resurrection cast new light on the mystery of suffering and death, and fill the believer with an extraordinary capacity to trust fully in the plan of God” (EV, no. 67).
The Risen Christ is the One who strengthens us to fight the culture of death. We are not left to our own limited, exhaustible resources. He is the One who promised to remain with us through the end of the age.
As we mark the Year of Faith and a “new springtime of evangelization,” let us consider how our own lives offer visible signs of new life. How do we give others reason to believe that they bear “an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to mere matter”? Does the way we treat others help them recognize their own dignity? Do our lives reflect Pope Francis’ words about Jesus Christ: “Above all we know that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joy, this is the hope that we must bring to this world”? The more we give authentic joyful witness to the Resurrection, the more others will be drawn to embrace the Gospel of Life.