Cardinal Vincent Nichols leads us in an Eastertide reflection rooted in the historical event of Jesus’ resurrection and the universal call to be both holy and missionary disciples.
During the holy season of Eastertide we are invited to reflect on our call to be holy, to be saints, and to be missionary disciples, open, generous and eager to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
The resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of faith; the splendour and glory of God, our blessed hope and source of joy. The greatest message the world has ever heard is: ‘He is not here, for he has risen as he said’ (Matthew 28:6).
Belief in the ressurrection of Jesus is at the heart of our Christian faith; handed down by the apostles, testified to by the New Testament writers and proclaimed alongside the cross in the Paschal Mystery.
The resurrection of Jesus was a real historic event. It is also a deep mystery of faith. Indeed, if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then, as St Paul says, everything is in vain (1 Cor 15:14). But Christ has been raised from the dead! We are a resurrection people! Alleluia is our song! As children of the resurrection we bear witness to this new life through the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Death is our common enemy and has power over us all. Jesus is the only One who could conquer death. By doing so he reveals the new humanity, a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).
So now we live by faith, not by sight. Our mortal bodies will die, but through faith we know that death is not the end and that we will rise, body and soul, on the last day. In this faith we can live happy and holy lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This was the message that St Paul proclaimed and is our blessed hope: ‘that just as Christ was raised from the dead, through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life’ (Rom 6:4). ‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep… For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1 Cor 15:20, 22).
This Eastertide, then, we pray as St Paul prayed: ‘I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection’ (Philippians 3:10).
Grant, Lord, that as we celebrate this Easteride season we may be renewed by your Holy Spirit and rise again in the light of life to live a holy life.
God intervenes in human history and in our lives. God is not remote or distant but entered time and space, becoming one of us in Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus unveiled the mystery kept hidden for ages: that God is One in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
Our message, the holy Gospel, is this: ‘God the Father loves you, he sent his Son Jesus Christ who gave his life to save you, and the Holy Spirit is now living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and set you free.’
As we enter into this joyful season of Eastertide, which leads to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost, we pray: ‘Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.’
Blessed John Henry Newman said: ‘Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.’ In other words the journey of faith always involves questions, struggles and difficulties.
The biblical definition of faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see (Heb 11:1). Faith invites us to trust in the promises of Christ, to rely and base our lives on them.
The disciples were blessed because they saw and believed; we too are blessed because, even though we do not see, we believe.
God will never disappoint us. God will never let us down. We live by faith, but a time will come when faith will no longer be required because we will see God face to face.
What qualities of character do we need to be witnesses for Christ?
St Stephen is an example. First, he had a remarkable grasp of Israel’s history (Acts 7:2-53) and had immersed his mind in the Scriptures, praying and meditating on God’s plan of salvation.
Second, he had a very close relationship with God in prayer. Prayer was a vital part of his life. Even in the midst of his agony, when rocks were being hurled at him to kill him, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’ and then, falling to his knees, cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’ (vv. 59-60).
Third, he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He was open, receptive, sensitive and eager that the Holy Spirit might lead and guide him.
Our mission, the raison d’être of the Church, is to proclaim, live and witness to the Good News, the gospel of new life.
But what is this new life? What is it like? Where does it come from? This new life is the life of the Spirit we received when we were baptized and immersed in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
St Benedict said: ‘Your way of acting [because you have received the new life of the Spirit] should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else. You are not to act in anger or nurse a grudge. Rid your heart of all deceit.’
Every day we have grace and the opportunity to witness to the beauty and goodness of the life in the Spirit.
Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger III landed his stricken airliner smoothly on the Hudson River saving his passengers lives.
On landing he came across one passenger whose shirt had been ripped and torn from him and he was shivering in the icy cold of the New York winter.
Captain Sullenberger, without a second thought for his own comfort, took off his own shirt and gave it to the man. He is a fine example of someone who would literally give you the shirt off his own back to help you!
‘An instant of pure love is more precious to God and the soul, and more profitable to the Church, than all other good works together, though it may seem as if nothing were done’ (St John of the Cross).
We pray to the Father, we turn to the Son and rely on the Holy Spirit.
Too often we rely on our strength, our own ideas, our own ability and don’t turn enough in prayer, in need and, yes, even in desperation to the Holy Spirit.
A work of the Holy Spirit is to counsel us about guilt and sin – this is not to condemn or oppress us but rather to set us free.
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son the moment of conversion began for the wastrel son when he acknowledged his own sin: ‘I have sinned against heaven and against you’ (Luke 15:18).
The Holy Spirit gives the gift of understanding so that we can confidently and joyfully proclaim that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Unity is a gift of the Holy Spirit; disunity is not.
Through baptism we are made children of God called to sow the blessing of peace wherever we go – to be peacemakers not peace-breakers.
The Holy Spirit can help us to see ancient or long-standing conflicts and disputes with new eyes and fresh vision.
The Holy Spirit makes us instruments of peace, eager to put love where there is hate, understanding where there is misunderstanding, and unity where there is disunity.
Peace, reconciliation and harmony are gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit which God pours out generously upon us.
Saint Pope John Paul II said this of the coming of the Holy Spirit into our lives:
‘Whenever the Spirit intervenes, he leaves people astonished; he brings about events of amazing newness; he radically changes persons and history.
‘Faith is not abstract talk, nor vague religious sentiment, but new life in Christ instilled by the Holy Spirit. Christ says to each of us: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).
‘He is counting on every one of you, and so is the Church. “Lo,” the Lord promises, “I am with you always to the close of the age” (Matt 28:20). I am with you. Amen!’ (Speech, 30 May, 1998) ■