Bulletin Article for Easter 2011
Christ is Risen!
He is truly Risen!
It was one of the most horrific scenes I have ever witnessed. Two cars full of teens had just collided. A body lay dead on the pavement in front of the smaller car. Farther off, a young girl age 17 or so was lying in a pool of blood, screaming and convulsing. The force of the crash propelled one of the drivers through the windshield. His limp body lay across the hood. Inside the car his friends were crying and screaming and trying fruitlessly to wake him as blood ran down their faces.
After what seemed like an eternity cops began arriving, then ambulances and fire trucks. Slowly and painstakingly they extracted the victims one by one. It took three ambulances. Then the county coroner arrived, and afterwards parents came to identify the bodies of their own deceased children. A hearse pulled up from the local funeral home. They zipped two teens into body bags and loaded them in the hearse. Firefighters swept up the broken glass and hosed down the blood. Parents daubed their eyes with Kleenex and then smiled, laughed, joked with each other, and headed back to work.
This surreal experience wasn’t really a terrible tragedy at all. Our local high school was reenacting a drunk-driving accident as part of a national initiative called Every 15 Minutes. It involved much more than a crash scene. Parents wrote obituaries for their own children. During the course of the school day, random children were singled out by a man dressed as the Grim Reaper (every 15 minutes, someone is killed by a drunk driver). These teens then received realistic makeup and spent the rest of the day silent, living dead people. They didn’t go home that night. All the Juniors and Seniors had come to school with an overnight bag in case they were one of the ones “killed.” Some even cleaned their rooms the night before. The next morning the upperclassmen gathered to watch video of the events and listen to speakers about drunk driving. Parents and children exchanged letters saying, “What I never got to tell you…” Most sobering of all was the realization that when death does come for each of us, it is final. Our beautiful world has one big problem: “No one gets out of here alive,” to quote Jim Morrison. Death always wins. Our greatest heroes, our best athletes, or brightest stars, our smartest leaders, our fondest loves ones, are all brought to their knees by death. No matter how long you live, death will always get you in the end. The question is not whether you will have an obituary, but who will write it. The mock car crash I witnessed was not a tragedy, but life itself seems to be a tragedy. Or is it?
This may seem like a terribly depressing way to start an Easter letter. However, the joy of Easter did not start with spring, or new life, or bunnies and chicks and chocolate eggs. Easter started in a graveyard with a dead man. Easter started with the terrible tragedy of an innocent man murdered by envy, complacency, and sin. But it didn’t end there, and that is the joy of Easter. God saw us living lives of quiet desperation filled with sin and shame, darkness and loneliness, hunger and fear and despair and death. He had a better idea. He walked among us as Jesus Christ, but he willingly chose to suffer the full measure of our pain and guilt. He died for love of you and me. He died so we could live.
Here is the good news – this is the one battle that death lost! Jesus allowed death to swallow him so he could destroy it from the inside. He trusted in the love of his Heavenly Father and he was not disappointed. God raised Jesus from the dead and highly exulted him. The first thing that Jesus tells his disciples is, “Do not be afraid.” He has conquered sin and death forever. Christ has turned the grave into an open door, a portal into the next world. For those who believe in him, something far greater awaits us on the other side. Little Colton Burpo says, “It’s going to be okay. The first person you’re going to see is Jesus.” (Heaven is for Real). The distance between us and the next world is paper-thin. Death would take nothing more than a heart attack, a lethal infection, a drunk driver, or a brief moment of texting while driving. Are you ready for what you will find on the other side?
For those who have accepted Christ’s death in our lives, the Resurrection awaits them in the next. Deaths are no longer tragedies; deaths are victories. For a Christian the obituaries are the best part of the paper because they tell us who made it home. This is why St. Paul can say, Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:54b-55) We are people of the Resurrection! We don’t have to fear death, and we don’t have to fear anything else either. Christ has been raised from the dead and he walks among us. He walks with us.
If you haven’t experienced the Resurrection in your own life, I have a few suggestions. Perhaps you have been away from Jesus for a while. He is looking for you. He wants to give you the new life and peace and joy you have been looking for. A wonderful opportunity for this is Divine Mercy Sunday (see the box). If the idea of seeing Jesus makes you afraid, this is a fantastic chance to get right with God again.
If you have not been Confirmed, we will be holding classes at Holy Trinity, Oconto starting on Wednesday, May 4th at 6:30 PM. You would receive Confirmation at the Cathedral in Green Bay on June 12th. Call the office if you are interested. If you are looking for even more, I am leading a walking pilgrimage from Holy Trinity in Oconto to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. We will leave on Monday, June 6th and arrive at the Shrine on Friday, June 10th with a Mass of Thanksgiving at 3:00 PM; all are invited to the Mass.
I would like to thank all the organizers and participants of the 24 Hours of Adoration hosted by St. Patrick. It was an awesome, awesome experience of God’s merciful love, and a moment to realize that he is with us in a powerful way. I want to also offer thanks to the choirs, servers, lectors, ushers, and behind-the-scenes people that have made these Triduum and Easter liturgies such amazing moments. People thank me for a great service, but they don’t realize how much work each one of you has done. Thank you. We have 50 days of feasting ahead of us to rejoice in the Resurrection of Christ. How will you live differently now that you have died and risen with Him?
Fr. Joel Sember