Behold, I make all things new, says the Lord. It never ceases to amaze me how Jesus follows through on that promise. You would think that after fifty Lents and Easters, seventeen of them as a priest, I would have a pretty good grip on the range of possibility for this annually recurring holy day. You might think it is just one big checklist of Things To Do, tweaked and improved after every year's efforts. Indeed I do have scripts and lists that meet that description for all the liturgies of Holy Week, and that would be the sum of it if Easter were about what I do. Yet despite how it does require much of my doing, that is never the biggest part of Easter.
Major among these other parts is always the group of souls who are entering full Communion with the Risen Christ in His Church. Every year it is the same: an assortment of folks, coming together from the widest variety of starts, by way of various possible paths and programs, making time and grappling with talks and teaching, books and meetings, getting to know one another and the Mystery of Faith; all those lives and all that preparation converge in the three days of Christ's Passion, Death, and Resurrection. And that's where it happens: Easter. The Resurrection. Christ makes all things new. Every year it is completely different.
This year I was amazed again at how the prayer of the Church, especially at Mass, focuses with increasing intensity on these souls as she moves toward and through Easter. As the day nears, her prayer is that they be not only prepared and fortified, but indeed defended from the enemy who would lead them away, stir up doubt or fear, or simply convince them they cannot or are not good enough. After Easter Sunday, the prayers of every Mass mention the newest members of the Body of Christ and beg that the new life they have received be sustained and bear great fruit.
Even with these prayers in front of me year in and year out, and indeed coming forth from my mouth, somehow I forget what the church insists on remembering, which is that the Resurrection of the Dead is not a past moment among the deeds of Jesus, nor a future event which we all rightly dread and hope for; but it is also and no less importantly a present reality brought about in our midst and with our cooperation in the lives of souls newly born in Christ, and in our lives.
Being present with and instrumental for these rising and transformed souls is for me a renewal bordering on complete renovation. My faith and my life are touched, shaped, and changed. I think you would receive a similar observation from the sponsors and other helpers along the way who share this privileged participation.
I wish all of you could know all of these, our newest brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as I have come to know and enjoy them. But my experience with them is passing, and yours lies ahead. They are changed and newly alive in a life that may seem old to you. Meet them, welcome them, invite them into your lives; and they will bring to you the newness they have received.
One of my favorite prayers in the treasury of the Church is, Oh God who did so marvelously create human nature, did so much more marvelously re-create it through Christ our Lord. Resist the temptation to think that this re-creation applies to some other person at some other time. Christ calls you, now, with His promise: Behold, I make all things new. Truly He is risen! Alleluia!