Dear Western Association Family:

He is Risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!

Jesus: It is that time of year again when we celebrate the Solemnity of the Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. But what is the Resurrection? We all know that the Resurrection represents Hope, and New Life and Victory over Death. But the Resurrection itself seems as mysterious as the man who rose. It was unexpected, un-witnessed and nobody was ready to believe it. Jesus’ disciples do not recognize Him when they meet Him…the disciples along the seashore, Mary Magdalene, the two men on the road to Emmaus …they don’t recognize Him, but then they do. Why? Who is He? Even during His life Jesus was a man of mystery. Like King Melchizedek, He enters history out of nowhere for a brief three years in an insignificant small town, in an obscure part of the empire. He never wrote anything. Only four words were written about Him during His lifetime, and those were the four words of His death sentence nailed to the cross above His head. With his crucifixion, death, and burial Jesus exits history as abruptly as He entered. And today, 2000 years later, a third of the planet are His followers.

Faith: The Gospel narratives give a very vivid picture of Peter and his personality. He is an impulsive, vacillating, awkward character, at times asserting himself like a hero, at times acting like a coward. Paul calls him a “hypocrite” Jesus calls him “Satan.” He is a family man and travels with his wife. There is even a church in Rome dedicated to his daughter. Peter is audacious enough to correct Jesus, impulsive enough to try to walk on water, assertive enough to proclaim that he will never deny Jesus, cowardly enough to abandon Jesus or to even admit that he ever knew Him, and repentant enough to shed bitter tears for his sins.

Who is Peter? He is the common man, weak and frail like you and me. And like Abraham, Peter is a man of Faith. And it is upon this “Rock” that Jesus built His Church. Faith is the foundation of the Church. Jesus did not choose an intellectual or a mystic. He chose a simple man of Faith. Whatever might have been the physical dimension of the Resurrection, it had an overpowering spiritual dimension in Peter’s life. When Peter encountered the risen Lord, Jesus did not rebuke him for denying Him. He asked Him only one question,” Do you love me?” At that moment Love and Faith came together giving Hope to the world. Jesus entrusted the care of His people to Peter: Feed My sheep. We are God’s people, as the Psalmist says, “For He is our God, and we are His People”. After the Resurrection God did not abandon his people. He gave us the means to join Him in Paradise. The Church, guided by the Paraclete Spirit, “transmits what it has received” …the Faith of the Apostles…leading us in holiness faithful to the Gospel. Jesus chose Peter because he is a simple man of Faith, and the Church exists for the common man with all of his weaknesses and with all of his frailty. There is no elite. Faith is a gift freely given to all willing to accept it.

Faith, the means by which we reach Paradise, is a lived experience. It is not the same as Belief. It is more than belief. Belief is informational. Faith is experiential. Belief is an activity of the mind and intellect. Faith is an activity of the heart and will. Belief is information based on the teaching of a religion. Faith is conviction based on a personal experience of Christ. Belief invites doubt. Faith demands a response in the way we lead our life. Belief is conceptual. Faith is existential. Belief is an expression or articulation of Faith.

Faith: That is why homilies in the Catholic Church are short exhortations to live our Faith. The Church is not a lecture hall for teaching theology. It is a place to lift the mind and heart to God in worship. It is a place where the simple man of Faith can bring his cares and sorrows and burdens, as well as his joys, and prayers of thanksgiving.

Faith draws us into an intimate relationship with Jesus. To love Jesus is the core of our Faith. Jews are not called upon to love Moses. Moslems are not called upon to love Mohamed. But we are called upon to love Jesus. Faith is a conviction and demands commitment. This commitment begins with prayer and finds its continuation in the struggle to live out the demands of our Faith, to live out our Christian values, to lead a moral life, to love one another and even to love our enemy, fulfill the duties of our state in life in an exemplary way…in short…to know, love and serve God in this life so as to be with Him in the next. We first meet Our Lord in Prayer, following His very own example in which He frequently withdrew to a solitary place to pray to His heavenly Father. This is the challenge of the Christian today… to develop our intimate relationship with Our Lord, our Personal Savior, living out our Christian values within the context of the prayer life and Sacramental life of the Church in our modern technologically advanced world. It is a challenge because prayer, especially reception of the Eucharist, is necessary to protect the precious gift of Faith, as Pope Benedict XVI so eloquently warned us in his Book, “Jesus of Nazareth” where he writes that in our time a new challenge is presented by the ideology of success that tells us, “God is just a fiction. He only robs us of our time and our enjoyment of life. Don’t bother with Him! Just try to squeeze as much out of life as you can.” And then he adds: …when you have lost God…you have lost yourself; then you are nothing more than a random product of evolution. Then the dragon of the apocalypse wins.

At Compline the Church warns us to be vigilant that the world does not rob us of our Faith: Be sober and watch because your adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour.” Faith is a precious gift. The Resurrection invites us to Sing a New Song unto the Lord! The “Old Song” is the “song of the world” which seeks power, fame, and wealth. The “New Song” is a Song of Faith, Hope and Love. It is the message contained in the Beatitudes. It is what we promised or was promised for us at at Baptism. It is the core message of Jesus: Repent, “metanoein” (Greek), “change the way you think.” Jesus is asking us to stop thinking the way Man thinks and to think the way God thinks, just as he did with Peter at Caesarea Philippi: “Get behind me Satan! You do not think the way God thinks, but the way Man thinks.”

Thus, the event and the Mystery of the Resurrection offers us Hope through a life of Faith and Love. The Challenge of the Resurrection is to deepen our Faith through our personal relationship with Jesus rooted in the intimacy of prayer and the Sacramental Life of the Church. A Life of Faith committed to Jesus finds nourishment through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Resurrection is an invitation to rise with Christ and “Sing a new song unto the Lord” …not the song of the World but the Song of New Life in Christ!

Happy Easter,

Michael L. Pomo, KM