“See! The winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of pruning the vines have come, and the song of the dove is heard in our land.” (Song of Songs 2:11-12)
Spring this year seems to be coming about slowly. On Palm Sunday in the afternoon, I had a conversation about the changing of the seasons with someone who lives out in the country. I remarked to him how cold it was and that spring seemed to be slow in coming — no green grass, no buds on the trees, and no shoots pushing out of the ground. He agreed with me, but he said, “Even though it still seems wintry, you can tell that people feel that spring is right around the corner. The other day, I saw farmers out in the field working the soil and sowing spring wheat.” Those who work the land put their hope in the coming of spring even when the signs are lacking. I walked away from that conversation a bit more hopeful.
On Holy Thursday, I drove to Holy Trinity Church, Kewaskum, to pray with the community as they celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. As I was driving to the parish, I saw a robin hopping on the brown grass. That was a promising sign, but the weather kept getting colder. However, once I entered into the church, it began to feel a bit more spring-like. I experienced the warmth of the members of the community, who celebrated their service to God and service to one another, symbolized by the washing of the feet.
The next day, Good Friday, I was privileged to take part in the Outdoor Way of the Cross on Milwaukee’s near southside. The cold wind cut through my coat as I stood on the flatbed truck where robed members of the southside Catholic community reenacted Jesus’ journey to Calvary. I read the First Station, and then got off the truck and followed the procession. I felt chilled to the bone, yet I sensed a spring-like hopefulness amidst the crowd of participants as they prayed for an end to violence, prejudice and injustice. Spring was in the air.
The Holy Saturday Easter Vigil in which I participated at St. John Paul II Church, Milwaukee, started out in a frigid gale as we shivered around the Easter fire. The Pascal Candle’s flame went out three times before the ministers were able to shield it and bring it into the church. However, once inside the church, it was springtime — a time of new life — as 15 young people came into full communion with the Church through the Sacraments of Initiation to begin their life of faith.
Easter Sunday was one of the coldest ever. I made my way to Holy Angels, West Bend, to preside at Easter Mass. However, once inside the church, I experienced the full flowering of spring as members of the community gathered to rejoice in the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. They expressed their faith in the risen Christ and the new life that he brings in abundance.
We are in the heart of the Easter season. As sure as the sun and rain will transform the land, so the mystery of Christ’s resurrection will transform us. The resurrection of Christ changes us, and compels us to let go of our selfishness, anger, resentment, prejudice and indifference, in order to live the new life he offers. As believers in the resurrection, we set our hearts on the higher things and strive to live our lives in a spirit of sincerity and truth.
Because of Christ’s resurrection, we can live our lives with courage and hope. The empty tomb stands as a promise of the new life that God wills to share with us. The love of God can free us from the bonds of sin, transform us into brothers and sisters of Christ and save us from the power of death.
Jesus’ disciples were empowered by the Holy Spirit to witness to this saving mystery by the proclamation of the Good News. We, as members of Christ’s Body, are empowered by that same Spirit to witness to God’s love and mercy. The Father was faithful to Jesus, and raised him up. The Holy Spirit inspires us to be faithful to those who struggle in this world — the poor, the alienated, the marginalized and the stranger.
Last week, as we made our way to Divine Mercy Sunday, it snowed. Nevertheless, springtime is here, and new life is all around us. May this Easter season fill us with joy, and may the promise of new life motivate us to proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection by the way we live our lives. May the Easter mysteries transform our hearts and fill us with joy and peace.