Today’s column is the homily that Bishop Cunningham preached on Easter Sunday at The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse.
It is a personal joy for me to wish you, for the first time as your Bishop, the peace of Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that you and your family will experience His presence in new and meaningful ways during this great season.
Among the many blessings that enrich our lives, our celebration of Easter is a vivid reminder of the gift of faith that we have received from God. This faith assures us that united to Christ we too are called to live the paschal mystery, sharing in Christ’s death in order to one day share in the glory of eternal life.
In many cases this gift was transmitted to us in our early years by loving parents and grandparents who handed on their faith to us. In other instances, individuals recognize and accept the gift of faith in later life, many as adults.
We rejoice that hundreds within our own diocese were received into the Church at last night’s vigil ceremony. We welcome them warmly and embrace them as our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Last evening at the Easter Vigil and today during our celebration of Easter Mass, we sense a palpable joy – a joy that renews us and the whole world. The Church has an amazing ability to re-create in her liturgies the very mood which she wishes to express and desires us to experience. On Good Friday, no matter what our reason for personal joy, the sober liturgical action helped us to be aware of and experience the death of our Savior. We mourned as we walked the way of the cross and witnessed from a distance His horrible suffering and death. This morning, no matter the sadness that might fill our hearts, we are lifted up in the joy of the Risen Lord Jesus. The alleluia that we sing is a reminder that Christ has risen from the dead. His suffering and death joined to His Resurrection has freed us from our sins and restored us to the friendship of God.
The Easter candle, standing tall in our Cathedral this morning, reminds us of Christ’s victory over the darkness of sin and death. It symbolizes that all has become light. The whole world has been renewed by the Risen Lord. He is the one who is risen on a day that will never end. A new creation has already begun, in which all that marred and disfigured the old is being overcome by the resurrected one.
“In Him a new age has dawned, the long reign of sin is ended, a broken world has been renewed, and man is once again made whole.”
“Christ is risen! He has … renewed the earth through the members of His Church now born again in Baptism, and has made it blossom afresh with men brought back to life. His Holy Spirit has unlocked the doors of heaven, which stand wide open to receive those who rise up from the earth. Because of Christ’s Resurrection the thief ascends to paradise, the bodies of the blessed enter the holy city, and the dead are restored to the company of the living. There is an upward movement in the whole of creation, each element raising itself to something higher. Rejoice and be glad. … The light of Christ is an endless day that knows no night.” (St. Maximus of Turin)
Among the many signs of Easter — the Easter candle, the baptismal water, the Easter lilies — there is one sign that most convincingly proclaims to the whole family of God that Jesus is alive. That sign is the witness of our lives, the example of disciples who know and follow Christ, making Him known through word and deeds. Our personal lives can convince the world in which we live that Jesus lives. It is our love, our concern, our understanding, and our faith that continue the living presence of Jesus in the world in which we live, in our own families, where we work, where we study, where we pray. If the world is to experience the joy and the hope of Easter, we who profess to be Christian must reflect that joy and hope in our own lives.
Through Baptism we became sons and daughters of the Father, brothers and sisters of the Risen Lord. At this Easter Mass we renew the promises of our Baptism. In so doing we recommit ourselves to living a vibrant, renewed life of faith in the Resurrection through the power of the Holy Spirit. We work to extend God’s victory over sin and death by taking up the battle against the forces in our culture which undermine the dignity of every human person. And we join with believers throughout the world in proclaiming with our lips and with our lives: Jesus Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham
Bishop of Syracuse