Dear Brothers and Sisters
As we end our Lenten journey with Jesus and prepare to celebrate the joy of the Resurrection at Easter, it can be spiritually fruitful to reflect not only on Jesus’ Resurrection, but also on the more subtle ways in which he brings life from death and light from the darkness of our lives.
These works of Jesus are not his feeding of the crowds, his control over nature, or his healing the sick. Instead they are his quieter acts of mercy and forgiveness. As such, they are relevant to our lives and current situations because they are gifts that he offers us each day.
Consider the Fourth Sunday of Lent, when we heard Jesus tell the parable of the prodigal son. The father, representing God, does not even wait for his son to get home and beg for forgiveness. While the son is still far off, the father sees him, is filled with compassion, and runs out to hug and kiss him.
On the Fifth Sunday of Lent we heard about the woman caught in adultery, providing another reminder of the abundance of forgiveness and compassion Jesus offers every one of us. The woman is hauled before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees to be condemned and executed. Instead Jesus intervenes on her behalf. After her accusers disperse, he asks her whether any have condemned her. When she replies no, he says “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
On Palm Sunday, we read about the mercy Jesus extended on the Cross to one of those crucified with him – a criminal who in the last moments of his life reached out and asked Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Our Lord without hesitation assured him of paradise that very day.
Jesus’ victory over sin and death is clear evidence of how greatly he wants to welcome us back. If he was willing to die for us, and rose from the dead for us, surely he is eager to forgive us our sins.
In case there is any doubt, he told the scribes who opposed him, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk?’ He then told the paralytic, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and go home.’”
Jesus rose from the dead, and he wants the same for us. His Death and Resurrection prove he will do whatever it takes to give us eternal life with him – to die, to rise from the dead, to forgive our sins – if we only ask him.
St. Faustina, whose feast of Divine Mercy we will celebrate the Sunday after Easter, writes in her Diary about a despairing soul who rejects God’s mercy at the moment of death. Jesus refuses to give up, repeatedly appealing to the soul, offering final grace, and assuring the soul that with just “a flicker of good will, the mercy of God will accomplish the rest.”
Why then do so many of us make it so difficult on ourselves when it comes to returning to Jesus? How much worry and fear about our past sins do we carry around like excess baggage?
This Easter season, I invite you to accept Jesus’ great gift of mercy and turn away from everything that holds you back – your past, your fear, your guilt. Jesus’ victory over death is greater than all of these. He wants you personally to join him; be like the good thief, the adulterous woman, and the prodigal son.
The Lord is risen because he also wants you to rise to new life.
With cordial greetings and the assurance of my prayers for you and your family during this Easter season, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,
J. Michael Miller, CSB
Archbishop of Vancouver