Happy Easter!

03-30-2024Weekly ReflectionFr. Chris Axline

Dear parishioners and visitors of St. Mary Magdalene,

Happy Easter everyone! We give thanks this day as Christ frees us from the captivity of death. It is truly a time to rejoice, especially after our long Lenten journey. I pray that this season is a blessed one full of joy and new life in Christ for you and your families. In his Easter homily in 2012 Pope Benedict wrote these words which powerfully summarizes the great joy of this blessed day, “Easter is the feast of the new creation. Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has taken mankind up into God himself.”

Indeed Christ’s Resurrection remedies the ancient curse of sin and death brought into the world through Adam’s and Eve’s (and us as their descendants) disobedience to God. This disobedience transformed the very way we relate to and view God. Since Adam and Eve, we have seen God, not as the loving Father He is, but rather as someone watching, waiting to strike us. In other words, man’s relationship to God was based on fear and not love. That was, until Christ came and showed us again how to live in the Father’s Love not just on Earth, but into eternity. This is what the Lord was asking me to focus on both during Lent and now into Easter.

Lent, at least for me, was difficult and seemed to drag on. Yet, it was also very rewarding. The Lord demanded a great deal, but He also gave me a great deal. Specifically, the Lord was inviting me to confront some of the ways I distract myself from following Him, by offering these things over to Him. At first, I struggled...a lot and I hesitated in making the sacrifices He wanted. Why did I hesitate? To be honest, because I was afraid. I was afraid of what “giving in” to His infinite, perfect Love would mean. It was simply overwhelming, He cannot really love me that much can He? Yes, He can, and He does. That is why Easter is so powerful. God wins. He has the last word through His Son and that word is Life! But, to go deeper into His great Love and receive this gift of life meant that He was asking me (and all of us really through our Lenten sacrifices), to focus on Him in a powerful way by giving up a great many things for Lent. At first, the cost was too high and I said no because I was comfortable where everything was. I was comfortable with my relationship with Christ and what I was doing. But, that is exactly what the Lord wanted me to learn, I was following Him on my terms, not His. Thoughts of “Lord, I will do this and give you this, but not that” were surging around my mind. But, the Lord showed me very early on this was a response based on fear; fear of what this costs me and not the reward, a deeper, more profound relationship with Christ. This fear meant that I was holding myself back from God.

So, in the midst of this maelstrom, the Lord gave me a Scripture verse that guided me through most of Lent, 1 John 4:18 which reads: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love (NABRE).” Through this verse, the Lord was purifying my discipleship so that my response to Him is based solely on my love for Him and not on anything else such as what I might gain or lose from following Christ. This helped me to see myself (again) in light of God’s Love for me and reminds me that, like Christ, to love perfectly, means to say yes, to unite myself to Him, not counting the cost, but seeing only the reward that a faithful gift of self brings. This yes means that the needs of the other come over and above my own needs.

This is how Christ Loves and how He calls us to love Him and one another, by making an authentic gift of ourselves. Only for a brief instant during His agony in the garden do the Gospels record Christ thinking about Himself. But it dissipates quicker than we can read about it as He overcomes that last temptation, unites Himself to the Father, and, from that moment, never wavers. In this light, Lent becomes a reminder that through Christ’s self-offering throughout the duration of His Passion and Crucifixion, we, as His followers, are called to always unite ourselves to the Father. In doing so, we too are then given a share in the Resurrection as Christ recreates us through the glorious Resurrection we celebrate today.