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Catholic Voice
  April 1, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 7   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

How should we live the journey after Easter

Archbishop Alex J. Brunett

The celebrations of this past Lenten season presented us with great numbers of contrasts. The journey of Lent reflects the experience of life itself. We have the good and the bad; the beautiful and the ugly; the joyful and the sad; support and rejection; acceptance and betrayal. What are we to gather from these celebrations and paradoxical readings? What is the message for us as we begin living beyond Easter?

I believe we can see these celebrations best if we look at the meaning of liberation. From the outset of his ministry this is how Jesus was presented. In the Nazareth synagogue didn't he apply the words of the prophets to himself? "The spirit of the Lord is upon me. For he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to captives and sight to the blind, to bring back liberty to those who are oppressed and proclaim a year of favor from the Lord." Today, after Easter, this liberation is reaching its fulfillment. On Palm Sunday, Jesus mounted on a donkey, moved through the "Hosannas," those cries for help and goes in the direction of the Temple.

The people who were acclaiming him and his disciples, who are surrounding him didn't immediately understand things in that way. In fact, for them what would liberation be other than rejecting Roman domination and restoring the sovereignty of God's people? Wasn't this what the expected Messiah was going to be like? He was to give the people back their sovereignty, since the chosen people ought not to be slaves of anyone. But during these days when the passion is beginning, Jesus doesn't give the impression of taking that route, of engaging in that type of liberation. At the end of his journey, perched on the donkey, he arrives at the Temple, "looks all around him" and then leaves because it is evening. Why the Temple? No sign of aggression, nothing that previews commotion among the people, a decisive uprising. We are far from those human liberations that belch out fire and produce dead bodies on which to set up a precarious peace, a balance of hatred or an atmosphere of revenge ready to break out at any moment.

Have we reflected enough on the contrast between his way of doing things and that which bears the same name of liberation but crushes before liberating? Have we thought about the distance between Jesus of Nazareth who was abandoned by all his disciples and crushed by his enemies, and our way of going about things, our belligerent intentions? We become intoxicated with our strength! Even if strength wins, it still crushes and destroys. And the victory cry it finally made on the pile of debris! During these next few days of Holy Week the Passion of Christ challenged our blindness? Are we going to become aware of what true liberation is? Are we going to recognize the true liberator in him? We clearly see that God, as revealed in Jesus Christ, cannot be sucked into brute force. How can this rush to force still find followers? Mounted on a donkey, and going into the Temple … that's why he comes to the Temple! Jesus is coming to liberate people from their false gods, for their fantasies. There's still much to be done! And the only person who can do it is the One who by his life and death on the cross revealed the true God because, in himself, Jesus destroyed hatred.

Is Jesus the true liberator? In this day and age, and during our journey after Holy Week, what answer will we discover to that question in our own personal lives?

How quickly adulation turns to condemnation. The crowd acclaimed him a liberator on Palm Sunday and called for his death on Good Friday.

How often that experience in replicated in our own lives. Our own crucifixion comes in less violent forms. If we have ever experienced betrayal, we never forget it. Most of us know what it means to lose a trusted friend. There is something deeply personal and painful about being rejected.

How often have we seen the Pilates in public office change positions according to the political climate? And yet we continue to pray for integrity and backbone in our leaders. The cry of the crowd for the blood of Christ to fall upon them and their children was serious enough, but rather than engendering a Christian spirit of forgiveness, for centuries the expression was used as a weapon by Christians to attack the Jewish people.

Are we to feel dejected and lost? No, the story of faith shows us in the death of Jesus Christ, that in the worst of times, there is always fidelity. For every storm, there is a bright horizon. For every lack of consideration there is the moment of gratitude. We shall never be nailed to a cross, but we all share in some form of Jesus' suffering.

We have learned that we all have crosses to bear. We tend to think of our particular cross as a burden, something — or someone — that demands so much of our time and energy. We consider whatever weighs us down, causes us pain and anguish, traps us in lives of desperation and despair as the "crosses" we have to bear. We dream of the day when we can lay our crosses aside, never to pick them up again. But, as we discover, often our heaviest cross can be our greatest strength. Many of our crosses are opportunities to be sources of hope, of joy, of discovery, of healing, of life for ourselves and others. Christ now challenges us to transform these crosses of ours into vehicles of resurrection. God lays on our able shoulders the strength to cope, the ability to listen and console, the faculty to lead and lift up. These crosses, when taken up in the same spirit of humble compassion with which Jesus took up his, are the first light of Easter dawn. They are also the first recognition of Christ the liberator!

(This was Archbishop Brunett's homily on Easter Sunday, March 31.)

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