Everyone loves Easter! Spring has arrived, the flowers are blooming, the grass is green, the heat of summer has not fallen upon us yet, people put on their best clothes and greet each other with exuberance – “Happy Easter, happy Easter, happy Easter.” There is nothing wrong with any of that. In fact, it is all very delightful but it is not the reality of what Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection, is all about.
Spiritually, each one of us needs to transport ourselves back to that hillside outside Jerusalem, stand silently before that open tomb, a tomb now empty, and ask ourselves if we really do believe in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead!
This is the heart of the Christian message. This is the ultimate test as to whether or not we are really followers of Jesus. In the following 2,000, countless numbers have died because they answered “yes” to that question. They believed in the Resurrection, were committed to Jesus and they would allow nothing to turn them away from that faith and commitment. Happily, most of us are not asked to die for our faith but it would be perfectly valid to ask ourselves would we be willing to do so?
Let us thank God for his infinite love for us. Let us walk into the future with confidence knowing that we are a redeemed people. Let us continue to celebrate the great feast of the Resurrection.
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Americans love to celebrate birthdays. It certainly provides opportunities for parties for small children although some of the older of us would just as soon skip the date for another year. But for the followers of Jesus is the date of our physical birth the most important in our story? I think not. My thoughts immediately turn to baptism, that date in time in which little baby John received the extraordinary honor of being made the adopted brother of Jesus of Nazareth. By that same act I was bonded far more with my siblings than by the awesome tie of blood. We are one in the Lord.
Actually, as I got to thinking about it the date back in July of 1930 that baptism would unite me with Pope Francis. He came along a few years after I did and about 8,000 miles to the southeast.
When you have faith, baptism is awesome. It binds us together in Jesus and invites us to a life of goodness and generosity. In our baptism we are joined to Jesus of Nazareth and invited to share in the Church’s commitment to a good life and a better world. But if the truth were known I don’t think about baptism nearly enough. Maybe on the basis of writing these words I will improve on that situation. Sitting at my desk in Austin, Texas, I realize more clearly now than I did 15 minutes ago that Jesus really is my brother.
I had three brothers originally but they have all gone ahead of me to God. I do not experience any sense of aloneness or isolation because Jesus is with me as I write this and he is truly my brother. What a wonderful thing to be able to say.
On June 21, 1930, my baptism was an important event but it is an event that should be affecting me today. Today is September 17th. Have I treated the people I have been dealing with today any better because Jesus is my brother and theirs? When I am attacked or criticized for something of which I am accused am I able to be buoyed up because despite their opinions Jesus loves me for what I am? It is fascinating that beautiful ceremony nearly 84 years ago is still active in my life, is still a force for good and challenges me to be more clearly conscious of it and allow its force to draw me on towards an eternity with God and his people.
Baptism is an awesome gift. How blessed are we who have received it.
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There is altogether too much cruelty in the world. Insensitivity is rampant and a willingness to hurt other people’s feelings with impunity should not go on unnoticed. However, is everything bad? By no means. I grew up on the north side of Houston in a white Protestant lower middleclass world. As I looked around, I saw constantly, but usually did not think too much about it, the cruelty that was meted out to blacks, Hispanics, gays, the retarded and others who were a little different. Even the Catholics took it on the chin at that time.
In the face of all that, I am thrilled to see the tremendous progress that is being made. Cruelty and insensitivity have not disappeared but at least most of the people who are guilty of those stupid offenses feel culturally bound to hold back and not verbalize it. I am especially happy to see the progress that has been made in our society to lessen the pain of people who are suffering from Down Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy and so on. We have wonderful organizations and programs that exist in strong opposition to outdated stereotypes of disabilities. Young people burdened with such now find themselves able to grow up with full lives, much laughter, a great deal of playing and, most of all, love and acceptance.
The job is not done but let’s keep working on it. The followers of Jesus should be the group most interested in lessening unnecessary pain.
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