Friday I celebrated the Good Friday liturgy, and I made reference to one of Michelangelo’s famous sculptures, the Pietá. Friday I was reflecting on the lifelessness of the figure of Christ in the sculpture and the sorrow of the Blessed Mother, with the importance of feeling that sorrow with her. That was Friday.
But today, I want to talk about another of Michelangelo’s sculptures, but a much less famous one than the Pietá. It is the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Santa Maria sopra Minerva. It is a very different statue. In the Pietá, Christ was limp, but here he stands firm, young, muscular, confident, and energetic. In the Pietá, the image of Christ calls forth pity, but here, he is glorious. In the Pietá, he was held in the arms of his mother, but here he stands alone, with the only other figure being the Cross at his side. He holds it in his right arm, but it is small and misshapen, almost puny, like the one outside our church by the walkway. The cross is almost silly looking, and it would be ridiculous to think that he could be crucified on it. He simply holds that flimsy wooden cross as easily as he might a bouquet of flowers or a baseball bat.
But see, that’s exactly the point. Whereas Friday we focused on the sorrow and guilt that we felt as Christ died on the Cross, today, we celebrate the life-giving power of the Lord who conquered overwhelmingly the power of the Cross. If Christ had not risen today, why would Good Friday be worth anything? What good would that suffering have been? What good would the love that he showed us through his suffering be if evil and death had simply extinguished it? Only the bright light and power of the Resurrection gives meaning to the blood-stained darkness of the Cross.
That’s what Easter should do for us. It makes that light of hope and joy shine so brightly in our lives that it shrinks those crosses that we find ourselves bearing down to size. Think of the statue I described. Yes, the cross is still there, but it looks silly and powerless, impossible to hold Christ and impossible to hold us back from sharing that joy with him. We can bear our own crosses and sacrifices now with joy, because we know that like the Cross of Christ, they are leading us to the victory of the Resurrection.
Today, we come to Mass, and it’s a little more joyful than normal, hopefully. We might be dressed a little nicer and we did the sprinkling right earlier. It’s an exciting day that should be the cause of celebration and joy as we share in the victory of Christ. It’s a day of easter egg hunts and candy for the kids, Cadberry Cream Eggs for Fr. Grosch, scrumptious dinners, and happy company with relatives and friends. But let’s not stop there. Let’s not just enjoy Easter, let’s let it change the way we live our lives! The Resurrection is not just a nice idea to think about for an hour and leave. It’s the power of eternal life at work in us! Now we have the opportunity to continue that. In fact, it’s not just one more day and back to work, but Easter lasts another 6 weeks!
Almost all of us did something different during Lent, or at least we tried to. We gave up something, tried to pray more, gave generously to the Church and to others, and abstained from meat on Fridays. And hopefully it had an impact! I know your sacrifices had an impact on me, since 6:30 Mass was crowded almost all Lent, so I had to consecrate more Precious Blood and work a little harder on my homilies! That was our very concrete and practical way of embracing those special graces and the opportunity to grow. Maybe if we gave something up for the penitential season of Lent, we can take something up during the joyful season of Easter! Make an Easter resolution for yourself. Don’t stop going to daily Mass now that Lent is over, but invite someone to go with you. People got together in huge numbers for our Fish Fries during Lent. Why not continue getting together on Fridays during the Easter season – not to fast, but to celebrate! You can join us for some of the parish events coming up, like the May Crowning or the Corpus Christi Procession.
Our souls need that. Just as good as Lent and this past Holy Week were to help our souls grow in humility and self-denial, now Easter is here to help us grow in joy. If we don’t take advantage, we’ll never be strong enough to carry those crosses, and they will overwhelm us, rather than be our inspiration.
May the risen Christ, the victor over evil and death, and the victor over the Cross, sustain us. In the Eucharist we now receive, may he grant us hope in facing our Crosses, and give us the strength not to be overwhelmed by them, but to make them but trophies of the great victory that we share with him today.