While changing channels on television, and being confronted by a myriad of religious broadcasters representing a broad spectrum of approaches in theology or preaching styles — some of the “fire and brimstone” variety, and others of the “everything is beautiful” approach — I wonder how confusing this must be to our Catholic public. Maybe our own clergy sometimes have added to the confusion.
Some preachers seem to accent only the cross and Good Friday, while others fix only on the glory of the Resurrection and “Alleluia!” Which is it? Are we a church that only identifies with Christ on the cross or are we an “Alleluia” Easter people?
The poor and the suffering in the world of CNEWA have taught me that the answer is both. We are the sum total of what happened on Good Friday, when Jesus suffered and died for all of us, and we are a people transformed by his complete victory on Easter, when he conquered sin and death for all of us by his Resurrection.
In the same way, the people we serve are both bearers of the cross, people of hardship and suffering, but also proclaimers of his Resurrection, people who live continually in hope.
I do not use this phrase lightly, but I strongly feel the poor whom we serve are the true Easter people. They hold up the cross, but always connect it with Easter and the victory of our Lord. Whether they are people in flight — those being forced from their homeland yet again — or others who are excluded from having any rights or privileges, they are people filled with hope. And hope rules their day — a hope that takes them beyond Good Friday and brings them to the fullness of Christ’s victory at Easter.
I recall personal examples from my travels. There were those in parts of Iraq who proudly adorned their humble homes with crosses at the risk of being singled out by ISIS; there were the little children in Egypt who proudly showed me their tattooed crosses inked on their wrists. There were the faithful Christians kissing a cross that was sewn into my vestment following Holy Mass, and biblical reenactments done by children, highlighting Christ on the cross, and hand-painted crosses affixed to the wall on “temporary” worship sites. I remember catechumens making a profound sign of the cross as a proud gesture of welcome. I will carry these and countless other memories in my heart for the rest of my life.
They remind me of something so beautiful and true about all who call ourselves “Christian”: The cross to us is more than just a symbol. It is a signpost that points to the Resurrection, the means of our salvation.
Your support of CNEWA with prayer and financial gifts, and the accompaniment that CNEWA offers the Eastern Catholic churches, sustains all those we serve in hope. You help to make them strong bearers of the cross and proclaimers of the Good News. They do not want our sympathy; rather, they invite us to share with them in the victory of the cross.
Thank you for making this, and so much more, possible.
May God bless you. Happy Easter.