Easter and Renewal

“Appointed Lord by his Resurrection. . . [Christ] is now at work in the hearts of men through the power of his Spirit. He arouses not only a desire for the age to come but by that very fact, he animates, purifies and strengthens those noble longings too by which the human family strives to make its life more humane and to render the earth submissive to this goal.” (Gaudium et spes § 38)

The great event we celebrate today, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, provides the impulse and the reason for being for our new apostolic venture, The Pope John Paul II Forum for the Church in the Modern World. The teaching of Vatican II, amplified by Pope John Paul II, makes explicit the connection between the resurrection and the renewal of society. The passage from Gaudium et spes quoted above is found in section 60 of Pope John Paul II’s third encyclical, Dominum et vivificantem: On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World (1986):

“In the ordinary conditions of society, Christians, as witnesses to man’s authentic dignity, by their obedience to the Holy Spirit contribute to the manifold ‘renewal of the face of the earth,’ working together with their brothers and sisters in order to achieve and put to good use everything that is good, noble and beautiful in the modern progress of civilization, culture, science, technology and the other areas of thought and human activity. (Gaudium et Spes, §§ 53-59) They do this as disciples of Christ who — as the Council writes — ‘appointed Lord by his Resurrection…is now at work in the hearts of men through the power of his Spirit. He arouses not only a desire for the age to come but by that very fact, he animates, purifies and strengthens those noble longings too by which the human family strives to make its life more humane and to render the earth submissive to this goal.’ (Gaudium et spes § 38)”

John Paul II showed his deep regard for “everything that is good, noble and beautiful” in the achievements and works of human culture. At the same time he understood that these noble longings must be “animated” or inspired by something higher than human pride and ambition, they must be purified of their narrow ideologies and self-serving purposes, and finally they must be strengthened by the virtues which most humans are too weak to develop and therefore become unable to sustain the noble efforts. Human cultures, human beings in their creative mode, need the mind and heart of Christ lest they sink under the weight of their own disorder, sin, and violence. In short, the world calls out for renewal by the Holy Spirit. That Spirit is sent by the Risen Lord.

The Lord? “Appointed Lord by his resurrection.” This phrase should make us pause – we easily say that word, “Lord.” Is it an “unreal word” in our mouth? Do we live the reality we say every time we say “Lord Jesus”? But why is he Lord? Not because of our choosing, not because we proclaim him or sing “my sweet Lord.” In truth, he is Lord because he rose from the dead. He is the Living Lord. And he sends us the Holy Spirit to begin to live this newness. Remember his words “Behold, I make all things new.” That renewal begins today, Easter Sunday, with his resurrection from the dead.

Let us dig deeper into the connection between resurrection, Holy Spirit and renewal. John Paul wrote:

“The mystery of the resurrection and of Pentecost is proclaimed and lived by the Church, which has inherited and which carries on the witness of the Apostles about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. She is the perennial witness to this victory over death which revealed the power of the Holy Spirit and determined his new coming, his new presence in people and in the world. For in Christ’s Resurrection the Holy Spirit — Paraclete revealed himself especially as he who gives life (Romans 8.11). In the name of the Resurrection of Christ the Church proclaims life, which manifested itself beyond the limits of death, the life which is stronger than death. At the same time, she proclaims him who gives this life: the Spirit, the Giver of Life.” §58

The main message of the Resurrection is “life is stronger than death.” Pope John Paul II was fond of repeating that phrase – love is stronger than death. This is not a pious sentiment, but a deep reality, a mystery, borne up by the fact of the resurrection of Christ and made tangible by the renewal of life through the Holy Spirit. The love that is stronger than death makes possible authentic renewal, nay it demands authentic renewal through conversion. The love of the Trinity is stronger than death – stronger than the sickening sex abuse crisis throughout society and in the Church (she is a Church of human beings), stronger than the deadly waves of abortion, stronger than the injustices and massive oppression of human dignity throughout the world, stronger than any personal failing or sin.

Our faith and joy today must be strong and high. We can sing with Hippolytus, a priest of the third century, who lived during the darkness of the Roman empire “O universal joy, exulation and banquet, delight which vanquishes gloomy death, now is abundant life given to every creature and heaven’s doors are opened wide.”

The Pope John Paul II Forum for the Church in the Modern World is dedicated to following John Paul’s confident and joyful approach to evangelization —

“In the name of Christ’s Resurrection the Church serves the life that comes from God himself, in close union with and humble service to the Spirit. Precisely through this service man becomes in an ever new manner the ‘way of the Church,’ as I said in Redemptor Hominis § 14 and as I now repeat in this present one on the Holy Spirit. United with the Spirit, the Church is supremely aware of the reality of the inner man, of what is deepest and most essential in man, because it is spiritual and incorruptible. At this level the Spirit grafts the ‘root of immortality,’ (Wis 15:3) from which the new life springs. This is man’s life in God, which, as a fruit of God’s salvific self-communication in the Holy Spirit, can develop and flourish only by the Spirit’s action. Therefore St. Paul speaks to God on behalf of believers, to whom he declares ‘I bow my knees before the Father…, that he may grant you…to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man.’ (Eph 3:14-16).” Dominum et vivificantem §58

We are grateful for the tremendous witness and the penetrating words of Pope John Paul II. There are many reasons for gratitude and joy on this Easter day.

Alleluia..

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