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Marist Bulletin - Number 243


Benedict XVI and Seán Sammon’s Easter Message

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Seán D. Sammons Easter Message

While visiting one of our Marist schools several years ago, I met a young man by the name of Tim. He was a good student, a fine athlete, a person who made friends easily. Tim’s request that I help him with his senior project was the initial reason for causing us to stay in touch over time; his topic: the Church and ecology. I agreed to do what I could and once back in Rome I found some references and sent them along. Shortly thereafter Tim graduated, went on to university, and by all reports was doing well.
During his first year I received word that Tim had mistakenly dived into shallow water while swimming during a student trip. He had broken his neck and was paralyzed. I phoned and wrote to him during the weeks that followed as he moved from hospital to rehab center. To this day, I can recall a comment that he made during a phone conversation shortly after sustaining his injury. “I spent 19 years preparing for one kind of life,” he told me, “and in but a few seconds had to face the fact that the life I would be living was to be totally different indeed.”
Today we mark the feast of Easter. Annually we celebrate its rituals, listen to its readings, and perhaps now and then pledge ourselves to take seriously its meaning. But rarely are we forced, as was Tim, to consider the cost of doing so. For the fact that we may celebrate Easter year after year as individuals and as an Institute but show little appreciable change in ourselves suggests that its message still has not penetrated our thinking, made a difference in our actions, transformed our hearts for the better.
So, this evening we must ask: what does Easter 2006 require of our Institute, all associated with it, and of you and me? For example, we talk these days about reclaiming the spirit of the Hermitage. But will the challenge that rests at the heart of that commitment remain forever a poetic notion or are we willing personally and as a group to pay the price that we must to make our own the spirit of that place and house that Marcellin built? And to do so in a world marked increasingly by violence and religious intolerance, and when so many of us individually and all of us collectively appear at times to lack the necessary courage, spirit of sacrifice, and simple faith in God to do what must be done to witness to the risen Lord?
The feast of Easter is all about conversion. It is a summons from God to stop talking about a change of heart and to start taking the steps necessary to make it happen. And that fact frightens most of us; we sense its implications. For true conversion is much more than window dressing, rather it entails a conscious and fundamental choice, at times a complete about face from all that has been familiar in your life and mine.
So, how do we change our hearts? Through the process of religious conversion, what Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan describes it as a falling in love with God, a complete and total surrender to God. The feast of Easter reminds us of the price that each of us and our Institute will pay if we are serious about making this process of conversion our own. Like Jesus, it will be nothing less than our lives. For God’s reign can never be equated with business as usual. Taken seriously, it offers us that troubling vision of a community of discipleship that is radically countercultural. But isn’t genuine love always troubling, always paradoxical, always ironic? How can it be otherwise since it too calls for a conversion of heart?
This feast of Easter, giving witness to the fact that the risen Lord is as present with us today as he was in the community of early disciples, takes us back to this truth: nothing is more consequential than falling in love with God in a quite absolute, final way. For to do so seizes our imagination, changes our hearts and lives, decides everything. And it is only with a heart so changed that you and I will be able to truly practice justice.
You may wonder what happened to Tim. Though a number of people were pessimistic about the possibility of him ever again having movement below the neck, a combination of this young man’s determination, aggressive therapy, and the passage of time led to his initially regaining some feeling, and then muscle activity, understandably at great price. When last I saw him, he had aged but he was walking, with difficulty yes, but walking none-the-less. May this feast of Easter and the courage and determination of this young man be the grace we need to move us to change our hearts and that of our Institute in a quite absolute way. And may the day and its meaning also be a source of consolation and hope in the life of young people like Tim. And by the way, his paper on the Church and ecology was really quite fine.
A blessed and happy Easter.

April 15th, 2006
Seán D. Sammon, FMS

Benedict XVIs Easter Message

Dear Brothers and Sisters!
During last nights great vigil we relived the decisive and ever-present event of the Resurrection, the central mystery of the Christian faith. Innumerable paschal candles were lit in churches, to symbolize the light of Christ which has enlightened and continues to enlighten humanity, conquering the darkness of sin and death for ever.
And today echo powerfully the words which dumbfounded the women on the morning of the first day after the Sabbath, when they came to the tomb where Christs body, taken down in haste from the cross, had been laid. Sad and disconsolate over the loss of their master, they found the great stone rolled away, and when they entered they saw that his body was no longer there.
As they stood there, uncertain and bewildered, two men in dazzling apparel surprised them, saying: Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, he is risen (Luke 24:5-6). Non est hic, sed resurrexit (Luke 24:6). Ever since that morning, these words have not ceased to resound throughout the universe as a proclamation of joy which spans the centuries unchanged and, at the same time, charged with infinite and ever new resonances.

He is not here ... he is risen. The heavenly messengers announce first and foremost that Jesus is not here: The Son of God did not remain in the tomb, because it was not possible for him to be held prisoner by death (cf. Acts 2:24) and the tomb could not hold on to the living one (Revelation 1:18) who is the very source of life.
Like Jonah in the belly of the whale, so too Christ crucified was swallowed up into the heart of the earth (cf. Matthew 12:40) for the length of a Sabbath. Truly, that Sabbath was a high day, as St. John tells us (John 19:31): the highest in history, because it was then that the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8) brought to fulfillment the work of creation (cf. Genesis 2:1-4a), raising man and the entire cosmos to the glorious liberty of the children of God (cf. Romans 8:21).
When this extraordinary work had been accomplished, the lifeless body was suffused with the living breath of God and, as the walls of the tomb were shattered, he rose in glory. That is why the angels proclaim he is not here, he can no longer be found in the tomb. He made his pilgrim way on earth among us, he completed his journey in the tomb as all men do, but he conquered death and, in an absolutely new way, by an act of pure love, he opened the earth, threw it open toward heaven.
His resurrection becomes our resurrection, through baptism which incorporates us into him. The prophet Ezekiel had foretold this: Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel (Ezekial 37:12). These prophetic words take on a singular value on Easter Day, because today the creators promise is fulfilled; today, even in this modern age marked by anxiety and uncertainty, we relive the event of the Resurrection, which changed the face of our life and changed the history of humanity. From the risen Christ, all those who are still oppressed by chains of suffering and death look for hope, sometimes even without knowing it.
May the Spirit of the risen one, in particular, bring relief and security in Africa to the peoples of Darfur, who are living in a dramatic humanitarian situation that is no longer sustainable; to those of the Great Lakes region, where many wounds have yet to be healed; to the peoples of the Horn of Africa, of Ivory Coast, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other nations which aspire to reconciliation, justice and progress. In Iraq, may peace finally prevail over the tragic violence that continues mercilessly to claim victims.
I also pray sincerely that those caught up in the conflict in the Holy Land may find peace, and I invite all to patient and persevering dialogue, so as to remove both ancient and new obstacles. May the international community, which reaffirms Israels just right to exist in peace, assist the Palestinian people to overcome the precarious conditions in which they live and to build their future, moving toward the constitution of a state that is truly their own.
May the Spirit of the Risen One enkindle a renewed enthusiastic commitment of the countries of Latin America, so that the living conditions of millions of citizens may be improved, the deplorable scourge of kidnapping may be eradicated and democratic institutions may be consolidated in a spirit of harmony and effective solidarity.
Concerning the international crises linked to nuclear power, may an honorable solution be found for all parties, through serious and honest negotiations, and may the leaders of nations and of international organizations be strengthened in their will to achieve peaceful coexistence among different races, cultures and religions, in order to remove the threat of terrorism.
May the risen Lord grant that the strength of his life, peace and freedom be experienced everywhere. Today the words with which the Angel reassured the frightened hearts of the women on Easter morning are addressed to all: Do not be afraid! ... He is not here; he is risen (Matthew 28:5-6). Jesus is risen, and he gives us peace; he himself is peace. For this reason the Church repeats insistently: Christ is risen -- Christós anésti.
Let the people of the third millennium not be afraid to open their hearts to him. His Gospel totally quenches the thirst for peace and happiness that is found in every human heart. Christ is now alive and he walks with us. What an immense mystery of love! Christus resurrexit, quia Deus caritas est! Alleluia!

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