My dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
I offer you my fondest wishes that your Lenten journey has been a fruitful one, and that Easter will bring to you the happiness and hope Our Lord promised.
Easter should be for all Christians a profound reminder of Jesus’ desire that we not only celebrate his Resurrection with reverence but also relish in its promise for each of us and our loved ones.
In these times of uncertainty for so many of us, please know this: Christ is with us when all is well and our hearts are light; and he is with us also when gloom and sadness fills our days and all seems lost.
Christ came to offer the supreme sacrifice so that even death would hold no power over us. He came to offer the Good News: God has for each and every one of us a love beyond measure, a love that exceeds understanding, a love that looks beyond our individual weaknesses and finds all that is right and true. Indeed, as Pope Benedict XVI recently reminded us in his first encyclical, “God is Love.”
All of the Lord’s suffering, all of his words, all of the miracle of the Resurrection was and is for the children of God — a beneficent God who longs for us, as any good father would, to be happy and full of confidence and peace. “I tell you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete,” Jesus said (John 15:11).
And all of this is for eternity.
Twenty-seven years ago, when I became your bishop, I chose for the motto of my ministry the phrase “God’s love endures forever.” That phrase resounds in the Psalm we are to proclaim in Catholic churches around the world on Easter morning (118). The words, and the absolute faith I have in them, have been particularly comforting to me not only in my service to you as bishop of Rochester, but also in my personal life:
Give thanks to the Lord, who is good,
whose love endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say:
God’s love endures forever.
Let the house of Aaron say,
God’s love endures forever.
Let those who fear the LORD say,
God’s love endures forever ‚Ä¶
The Lord, my strength and might,
came to me as savior.
On Easter morning, we commemorate the miracle of the Resurrection and the triumph of the Savior who suffered so that we, too, might live. Even death and the weight of humankind’s sin could not suffocate or defeat this love of God that endures forever.
It is a love that endures when we choose the wrong path — and God is always there to forgive when we realize the error of our ways.
God’s love endures and props us up when this earthly life weighs down upon us, sometimes unbearably, as when we lose a loved one or when we or someone we hold dear becomes gravely ill.
God’s love endures when a 9/11, a Hurricane Katrina or a terrible tsunami destroys lives and property beyond comprehension. It sparks in those who must rebuild an incredible courage, a renewed hope, and it creates in others a wonderful generosity to help in the rebuilding.
God’s love endures for the church when we lose a great leader like Pope John Paul II. He constantly sought to remind us of the need to live Easter every day of our lives, saying, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song!”
When he died one year ago this week, the whole world mourned, and we came together in unity and love by the example of his life of integrity and courage. Always cherishing his memory, we found new life in a new pope so that the church, like God’s lasting love, can endure forever.
In a time of war, God’s love endures, as well. It comforts us when death and hopelessness seem to permeate the news reports, when young people are cut down in their prime, and it reminds us to work harder, pray harder and pressure our leaders harder for a just and lasting peace. It motivates and inspires millions of Catholics to work for justice, to protect the vulnerable, to feed the poor, to work for the rights of the unborn.
On Easter morning — and on every morning you wake to a new day — remember the words of comfort Jesus uttered on that first Easter, words of comfort that mean God’s love endures forever.
“Peace be with you.”
“Do not be afraid!”
“I am with you always.”
Let us strive to find and keep the joy of our faith this Easter and to celebrate and share with each other the gift of this enduring, always-present love of God.
And let us truly be the “Easter people” every day of our lives.
Peace to all.