May God bless all of you during this Easter season! During this time of year, we celebrate the Risen Lord Jesus who lives and who touches the dark corners of our lives and our baptism in which we are forever joined to him.
In 2001, I was bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville and caring for my brother George, who had Down Syndrome. George’s health was failing, and it was getting hard for us to manage on our own. George was no longer able to do volunteer work at the Cathedral School or be on his own. So during the day I would drop George at a wonderful adult day care center. One time I did not arrive to pick him up until after 11 p.m. As we left, I turned to him and said words that many weary and discouraged people have uttered over the centuries: “George, what does God want from us?”
Without skipping a beat, he took my hand and said, “To be good.”
With these simple but reassuring words, George cut through all the complications, and, in his simple response, the love of Jesus Christ Risen flooded into the dark corners of my life. The risen Christ was present when I needed him the most.
A similar event happened to St. Peter. The Gospel of St. John (chapter 21) records an appearance of Jesus after his resurrection; he appears to his disciples, who have been fishing all night without success. Even more painful, Peter recalls the three times he disowned Jesus during those final hours before Jesus’ death on the cross.
Jesus appears on the shore. He calls to his disciples to cast the nets one more time, and they obey. Miraculously their nets fill with fish to the breaking point! After the meal, Jesus takes St. Peter aside and asks not once, but three times: “Peter, do you love me more than these?” When Peter professes yes, Jesus says again three times, “Feed my sheep.”
The Resurrection of Jesus is real and not only an event of the past. The mystery of the Resurrection and of Easter is this: He who died now lives! In the midst of the deaths or discouragements of our lives, Christ conquered sin and death — not in some vague and abstract way — but very personally. He lifts us from discouragement and
selfishness to a new life, and he is as truly present to us as he was to Peter on the Galilee shore and as he was to my brother George and me.
In our baptism, Christ touches us first and forever, and Easter is all about the sacrament of baptism. The Easter Vigil is the most opportune time for adults to be baptized, and it is also the time when we renew our baptismal promises. We again promise to renounce sin and selfishness and believe in Christ and his church.
Last fall, when Pope Francis wrote as Archbishop of Buenos Aires to his faithful on the Year of Faith, he spoke of the increasing security and closed doors of the modern world and invited all to open the doors of their hearts to the Lord Jesus. As we remember that encounter with Christ in baptism, this is the time to open wide our hearts to him in trust.
I think of the grace of that evening when the Lord Jesus spoke words of love and encouragement to me through my brother. May you experience this same love and encouragement through Sacred Scripture, the Holy Eucharist, and the love of others. Give testimony that Christ lives by allowing Jesus Christ to enter your heart and every corner of your life, banishing darkness and bringing forth light. Have a truly blessed Easter season!
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz