NEW YORK (CNS) — On Easter last year, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan looked out on an empty St. Patrick’s Cathedral amid the pandemic and thought, “Oh my God, I don’t mind an empty tomb on Easter but an empty church?”
“To see the folks back, even though we’re still limited to 50% capacity … sure means the world. Don’t tell anybody, I’m afraid we went a little over that today, but we were very careful,” he told the congregation April 4 in the cathedral that can hold about 2,000 worshippers.
He said he also was gratified “to that hundreds of thousands are united with us at home. That’s the church’s job, to get out the good news about the resurrection of Jesus.”
“Welcome to America’s parish church, St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” he said at the beginning of Easter Mass. “If we can’t be in Jerusalem, if we can’t be in Rome, this ain’t bad. So we are thrilled you are with us.”
Massgoers followed all COVID-19 precautions — mask wearing, social distancing and hand-sanitizing in the 2,000-person capacity cathedral.
Cardinal Dolan told the faithful that even “in spite of all the restrictions, it’s been an extraordinarily awesome and inspirational Holy Week.
In Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, where COVID0-19 precautions were also in place, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley said the risen Lord is alive, offering us his friendship and his love” here and now.
“He’s not some distant guru who died in the past and is gone. Jesus is our contemporary he is alive here and now, and therefore Easter is the festival of hope, the greatest event in history commemorated each Sunday as the church gathers for the Sunday Eucharist, the Lord’s day,” he said in his homily.
“Christ is a god we can love because of his crucifixion and in whom we can find hope because of his resurrection,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “He gives us the promise of our own resurrection so we can have the courage to face the trials and sufferings of life.”
With Easter, the Lord “begins the task of gathering the scattered — Mary Magdalene, scattered in her grief; Thomas, scattered in his doubts; Peter, scattered in his denial,” he said. “Jesus is still gathering the scattered today.
“We’ve all been scattered in our lives in so many ways. but lately by the pandemic, the death, the sickness, the isolation, the loss of income, all of the other sufferings — the risen Lord is alive gathering the scattered,” Cardinal O’Malley continued. “Christ is alive, assuring us of his presence and his love, death does not have the last word. His Gospel is a challenging message of joy.”
Jesus teaches us “to love and to forgive, to identify with the suffering and the oppressed, to raise our voice against injustice, to return love for hatred, to be witnesses of his resurrection, to live our lives in such a way that people recognize in us the presence of the risen Lord,” he said.
And like the disciples who announced that on the road to Emmaus on the afternoon of his Resurrection, they had seen the Lord —“he is alive, we recognized him the breaking of the bread — and “were filled with Easter faith, let us rejoice,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “Christ is risen. He loves us. He is with us forever.”
Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez reminded the faithful gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels to stay close to Jesus and return to the simplicity of living out their faith by simple decisions and daily practices.
“There are some signs that things are different. The pandemic has been a very difficult reality and then there is an unsettled attitude in our society. We are not sure where it is all heading, but we know where we need to be. We need to stay close to Jesus, close to his empty tomb, close to his church,” said Archbishop Gomez.
The first Christians “did not talk about programs, or initiatives and activities,” but rather referred to their faith as the “way” and the “life,” he said.
“We need that same simple faith: Begin by believing in God’s love for us. Trust in the promise of life that he makes to us. Our faith is not complicated. It involves simple decisions and practices we can make every day,” said Archbishop Gomez, who also is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Trying every day to seek the Lord’s face in the Gospels,” he said. “Listen to his words, ponder his example. Praying always to know what he wants us to do. Then do it with all our heart and all our strength.”
Archbishop Gomez called on the faithful to live their faith simply by loving the people in their lives, serving with a humble heart and showing mercy and forgiveness — and to love without counting the cost and to give without expecting anything in return.
“As Easter people, we also need to grow in our love for the church, and in our desire to share in the church’s mission. We need to be his witnesses, bringing others to follow him in this beautiful way of life,” said Archbishop Gomez as he ended the homily.
“This is our mission now, my brothers and sisters. We are sent forth from the empty tomb, just as those first disciples were,” he said. “We are sent out to speak to others of the love we know. To preach by example, by our deeds, by the joy of our life!”
In a message to Catholics of the Seattle Archdiocese posted on his blog on Easter weekend, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne told the faithful he prayed the risen Jesus fills “each of your hearts with peace, light and newness of life.”
“Whether we notice or not, the risen Jesus accompanies each of us every step of our life. In this year that has known so much darkness, the light of the risen Jesus is always beneath the surface waiting to burst forth,” he said. “Every encounter we have with Jesus is with the risen Christ.”
“Now is the time to ‘clear out the old yeast of malice and wickedness,’” Archbishop Etienne said. “Let us put behind us all bitterness and complaint and, as the risen Jesus, be willing to forgive others of their faults and shortcomings, and live this new life that is ours in the risen Christ!
“As members of the church, we not only encounter the risen Christ in the church, but as members of his body, we are to manifest his presence to the world,” he added. “When we live our faith in the risen Christ, we bring him to others, and bring others to him that they may have resurrection moments in their lives.”