Bishop Michael Callahan’s Pastoral Letter for Easter 2021
Greetings my sisters and brothers, in the Name of our Most High God, and His Son, Jesus.
It is through Christ, the grace of His Good Friday sacrifice, and Easter victory over death that we’ll be able to shout once again — Glory to God in the highest
On Easter Sunday we will indeed joyfully proclaim to our friends, neighbors, and indeed to the whole world, that He is Risen. Yes, we all shout in reply — He is Risen indeed.
“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad. Alleluia”
These words are from the Psalmistry for this Easter. They are very appropriate for each and every day, but, so much more so on Easter Morning as we recognize the culmination of God’s divine plan to reconcile the whole world, and yes, even all of creation unto Himself.
There is something truly unique about our Easter Liturgies, and that is, the reality of movement – not just activity, but a joyful movement of going forth – we must become a Church that goes forth in joyful recognition of our risen Lord. This should become the stimulus that we’ve been hoping for, rather than a few socialist bread crumbs.
We as a Church need to experience a paradigm shift. We MUST abandon our secular focus, quit relying on a growing and increasingly hostile government for salvation.
We MUST become a people who runs to Jesus, rather than to “big brother.”
We must run and emulate Mary Magdalen, the first evangelist, who literally sprints to proclaim the Good News. Do you race like Peter, John, running in excitement towards the empty tomb, to find that the Lord was no longer there?
We read again, in Sunday’s Gospel, that Mary encounters Jesus outside the tomb after Peter and John had hurried off and she, in turn, runs to tell the disciples: “I have seen the Lord!” Mary was not only the first disciple to see the risen Lord, but she was a missionary disciple - a running disciple - she should be emblematic of a Church that goes forth with a message of hope, joy, and evangelical zeal!
Where is that spark of joy and excitement in our age? Is it found in your Church, does it reside in your heart?
My prayer for you this Easter Sunday is that the Good News of the Gospel message will rekindle a new sense of urgency and commitment to serving the Lord.
We are indeed running a race, and as the Apostle Paul tells us, it is important to be faithful until the end. We must be intent on finishing well, running as if we’re intending to win. (1 Corinthians 9:24)
It has now been over a year since the pandemic started. Last year at this time most all of our churches were closed, sadly cow-towing in fear, under tyrannical government overreach and oppression.
Sadly, for most, this past year has not been a time of going forth. Instead, it has been a time of lockdowns, restrictions, uncertainty, cancellations, disappointments, sickness and death. We have watched one church community after another suffer in silence not knowing when our churches will be allowed by our over-reaching state and local governments to open or how long it will take for people to reconnect with their parishes. It has been a difficult time not only for people of faith but for the whole country as well. In spite of this, our Christian families continue to be places where faith lives and even flourishes.
Perhaps there is nothing as hopeful and meaningful in our faith celebrations as the Easter Vigil Mass when the new Paschal Candle is brought into the darkened church. The simple light is held high and shines brightly in the darkness as a reminder that Jesus is the light of the world. The congregation lights their small candles from the Easter Candle, one by one. The church becomes radiant and there is a sign of hope coming from each of us holding our lighted candles. The Paschal Candle moves down the aisle accompanied by the words: Christ our Light -Thanks be to God, echoing through the church.
In all of this we should be cognizant that this is a sign of what we are called to do as we move forward in the aftermath of this plan-demic. Are we not called to be signs of hope as we re-build our communities following the destruction caused by the highly politicized planned pandemic of the past year? In fact, it is my prayer that we may be on the very precipice of a unique experience of church renewal.
The lessons we have learned over the past year must play a part in this renewal, especially how important, beautiful and valuable our faith really is; how vital the sacraments are to us; how hopeful the Word of God is to us. It is our task to rebuild, to renew, to proclaim, to go out and be that light symbolizes the spirit of the Easter Vigil? To become a renewed and revived post-pandemic, evangelical Church!
Today, during this Easter season, I encourage all of you to put aside your fear and head back to church. For we serve a God of hope and love. We do not put our hope in politics, science, or big pharmaceutical companies who’re pushing vaccines that have abandoned scientific safety protocols simply to enhance corporate profits.
“This is the day the Lord has made,
let us rejoice and be glad.
In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles for Easter Sunday, it is Peter who speaks and encourages the Church, weak in many ways, to go forth in both word and deed to become a vehicle for salvation: “You know the message that spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee… how Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power went about doing good and healing… He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God…” We too must go out and gather our communities once again, and we must build them anew. But more than that, we must transcend our boarders and reach out doing good in the wider community just as Christ did.
This Easter, perhaps more than ever, we are witness to the fulfillment of age old prophecies — the decline of the secular world, and should realize that the end-times are upon us.
Therefore, our mission of being the light to a fallen world is even more urgent. As the time advances towards the culmination of days, it becomes that much more urgent that we keep ourselves in a state of readiness and grace. It’s also more and more important that we remain faithful workers, teaching the True Gospel of our Lord to a world that is increasingly hostile to traditional Christian values.
An Easter Faith means simply to believe that God’s hand can be found everywhere and, in every event, and that His Word is TRUTH. However happy or sad, knowing, as St. Paul says: “…that all things work together for good for those who love God”
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let us rise and be on our way, because He is Risen.