Happy Easter: Do you want to be Free?

Who among you wants to be free?  I think what we want to be free from is our sin and fear. 

On Good Friday, Fr. Tony and I watched Mel Gibson’s, The Passion of the Christ. I am amazed at how emotional this movie is no matter how many times I watch it.  It never loses its power. When we watch it, we have a deeper awareness of the sufferings that Christ went through for us.  And when we reach that moment, the moment when Jesus dies on the cross, the movie descends into hell and shows us the devil.  And it’s very interesting what we see… The Devil is going crazy with anger, and around him, all you see is emptiness and dry bones.  The Devil is alone. The movie does a phenomenal job showing us that at Jesus’ death, he descends into hell and frees the souls of the just from their captivity to the devil.  Jesus’ death is our freedom.

Listen to these stunning words from a meditation on Holy Saturday: Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, …all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead…Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I in you… These (in bold) are the words that I cannot stop praying about. 

Pope Francis echoes these words: Jesus Christ loves you, and he gave his life to…free you!

We are no longer prisoners of sin and death.  Jesus has freed us from an identity of sinfulness.  You will never hear me say that we are sinners.  No!  We are God’s sons and daughters, and as His sons and His daughters, we are loved more than we can imagine.  This is our fundamental identity.  We hear from Saint John’s Gospel, that to those who believed in His name he gave power to become children of God.  Friends, our fundamental identity is as God’s children, not as sinners.  This is something I invite all of us to pray with this weekend: to look at that cross and see God’s great love for us.  Whenever we doubt whether we are lovable, or worthy, may we always know that we are loved by him so much that we were worth his life.

But Jesus has conquered our fear as well!

Christ’s crucifixion is the sign of his love for us and our freedom.  Jesus’ resurrection gives us the power to be courageous witnesses.  I am struck by the stark contrast between the Apostles in our first reading from Acts and from the Apostles at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.  When Jesus is arrested beaten and put to death, all abandon him.  And yet, today, on this most holy day, where we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection, we learn that the Apostles have become courageous witnesses: We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.  He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.

This totally new courage only makes sense, brothers and sisters, if these words are true He has been raised; he is not here; that Christ has risen!  There is no way that the Lord’s followers who were held captive by fear during his death would have had the courage to proclaim the Gospel if there was no resurrection.  Jesus rose from the dead and he not only gave us freedom but he gave us the power to be courageous witnesses. 

Today, we are like the earliest disciples.  We awake with a sense of Awe.  A sense of awe at how far God’s love will go for each one of us.  We are in awe because we too have been freed from sin and fear.  We are free.  But we also need to have courage! It’s not easy to be Christian.  It takes a conscious choice to live and speak His Name to the world. Others still need to know and experience God’s love in their lives. And God is counting on you…

My brother and sisters, You are Free. But Jesus asks you this one question this weekend: He says, My friends, “many of your brothers and sisters are still languishing in prison (They are unaware of my freedom). Are you going to enjoy your freedom while they suffer?  Or do you want to help me loosen their shackles, and together with me to share their prison?” Lord, we want to help.  We want to be your witnesses.  We want to courageously bring your freedom into the world.

Happy Easter!

In Christ’s Love,

Fr. Stephen


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