Program #0034 for Tuesday, April 26, 2011: Pope Benedict’s Easter messages to the world

April 26, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor

Today’s guest(s): Dr. David Franks, vice-president of mission for the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization at the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization at St. John’s Seminary

Today’s topics: Pope Benedict’s messages to the world on Easter; Pope John Paul II’s influence

A summary of today’s show:

1st segment: Scot welcomes back Fr. Chris. Recalling the celebration of the Triduum, Fr. Chris said many different people come to the liturgies of the Triduum from outside the seminary. Scot was on the Dan Rea show on WBZ Radio last Friday to talk about Catholics Come Home and answer caller questions about the Church.

At the seminary on Holy Thursday, they traditionally select the men in their 3rd year for the foot washing. On Saturday night, they had transitional deacon Quang Lee sing the Exsultet. Scot said they hope to have the transitional deacons on the shows leading up to the ordination next week.

Scot said in this show, they plan to talk about the Holy Father’s messages on Easter, the major ideas and themes. The messages are for everyone, not just those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

2nd segment: Scot and Fr. Chris welcome Dr. David Franks back to the show. Last Saturday, the Holy Father’s homily follows—as in every Easter Vigil Mass in the world—the service of light, the Exsultet, and the readings of Salvation History. He begins:

The liturgical celebration of the Easter Vigil makes use of two eloquent signs. First there is the fire that becomes light. As the procession makes its way through the church, shrouded in the darkness of the night, the light of the Paschal Candle becomes a wave of lights, and it speaks to us of Christ as the true morning star that never sets – the Risen Lord in whom light has conquered darkness. The second sign is water. On the one hand, it recalls the waters of the Red Sea, decline and death, the mystery of the Cross. But now it is presented to us as spring water, a life-giving element amid the dryness. Thus it becomes the image of the sacrament of baptism, through which we become sharers in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Fr. Chris said it is a beautiful opening and it captures this image of light. “Lumen Christi, Deo gratias”, “The Light of Christ, thanks be to God.” You see not just the Paschal candle, but the lights of hundreds of followers. And then the image of water to welcome into the faith, new believers, to have it happen because Christ’s side was pierced for them and us. It’s also an image of the Church being born. The Church is more than just stone and mortar, it’s living human souls.

David said fire and water is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Fire and water can be lifegiving, but they can also be dangerous in the natural world. But in Jesus Christ, what can be destructive toward human good are lifted up and used for the good of humanity. Scot said they are basic elements of creation and capture our imagination.

Scot said his 9- and 7-year-olds were struck by the third reading of Pharaoh’s chariots being drowned in the Red Sea and asked if God was being mean. David said St. Paul points out to the Romans, we aren’t talking about the eternal destination of the Egyptians, but the plan of liberation God has set in place. If we work with God then it is to our benefit, but if we array ourself against God, we should realize that no force of darkness can overcome the power of God’s love.

Fr. Chris said that as soon as the Paschal candle is illuminated, it shatters all darkness. It reminds us that the smallest candle can overcome all darkness. All Christians are called to be salt and light in the world. The light of Christ shatters sin and darkness once and for all.

The Church wishes to offer us a panoramic view of the whole trajectory of salvation history, starting with creation, passing through the election and the liberation of Israel to the testimony of the prophets by which this entire history is directed ever more clearly towards Jesus Christ. In the liturgical tradition all these readings were called prophecies. Even when they are not directly foretelling future events, they have a prophetic character, they show us the inner foundation and orientation of history. They cause creation and history to become transparent to what is essential. In this way they take us by the hand and lead us towards Christ, they show us the true Light.

Fr. Chris said God is afoot, He is present in our world now. He is still calling us and unveiling His mystery to us. This past week, the Holy Father said there are three things if we want to be holy: the 10 commandments, the Sunday Mass, and daily prayer. Those 3 things coupled with God’s grace can lead us to the path to sanctity. This unfolding of God’s love for us continues for us today.

David said God is on the move. This is what gives our lives a sense of mysterious promise. There is something powerful and good that is coming. Anytime we pray, God is on the move transforming our lives.

Scot said he loves that he said the Church offers us in this reading a panoramic view of salvation history. Jesus was the fulfillment of promises made over a period of thousands of years. Fr. Chris said we are all on a trajectory toward heaven. We need to remind ourselves what our final end is. Fr. Corapi said in a homily that if we had a natural end, then it would be enough to be good enough. But we have a supernatural end and we must be more.

The Holy Father then says the Creation account is included because “The sweep of history established by God reaches back to the origins, back to creation.” David said the other world views in our culture would have us believe we don’t come from a loving God, but a result of randomness. Is it a matter of God’s loving directed plan for our lives? That’s the claim of the Church.

Fr. Chris said in Christoph Schoenborn’s book “Loving the Church” where he refers to us as “creatures” which reminds us that we are God’s creation. Ultimately, God does not need us, but He desires to share His love with us. There is one God who is worthy to be praised for the gift of life and creation. When you see a newborn child, you know there is nothing random about that at all.

3rd segment: Continuing the Holy Father’s homily.

The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week. After six days in which man in some sense participates in God’s work of creation, the Sabbath is the day of rest. But something quite unprecedented happened in the nascent Church: the place of the Sabbath, the seventh day, was taken by the first day. As the day of the liturgical assembly, it is the day for encounter with God through Jesus Christ who as the Risen Lord encountered his followers on the first day, Sunday, after they had found the tomb empty. The structure of the week is overturned. No longer does it point towards the seventh day, as the time to participate in God’s rest. It sets out from the first day as the day of encounter with the Risen Lord. This encounter happens afresh at every celebration of the Eucharist, when the Lord enters anew into the midst of his disciples and gives himself to them, allows himself, so to speak, to be touched by them, sits down at table with them. This change is utterly extraordinary, considering that the Sabbath, the seventh day seen as the day of encounter with God, is so profoundly rooted in the Old Testament

The Holy Father is reminding us that because of what happened on Easter that Sunday becomes the central moment in our life as Christians. Every Sunday is a little Easter and we should be reminding ourselves that the centrality of our faith is rooted in Christ’s death and resurrection.

David said Pope Benedict is saying a radical shift should be noted here. There is nothing to account for such a radical change unless the resurrection is true. He’s also saying that Christians don’t exist on the same rhythm as the rest of the world. On the day of Christian rest, we don’t lie down, but we get up to serve and love on another on a new level. Scot said we should be starting each week and each day in the presence of God. The wisdom of our Church is that we start the week this way and we should model our lives this way.

Fr. Chris asked how we get out of bed in the morning and establish the rhythm of our day. And Sunday is the anchor for each person that establishes how we will live each week. When Pope Benedict talks about the centrality of the Sabbath becoming the first day, it shows the need to order our lives so that Sunday takes a priority for us.

We celebrate the definitive victory of the Creator and of his creation. We celebrate this day as the origin and the goal of our existence. We celebrate it because now, thanks to the risen Lord, it is definitively established that reason is stronger than unreason, truth stronger than lies, love stronger than death. We celebrate the first day because we know that the black line drawn across creation does not last for ever. We celebrate it because we know that those words from the end of the creation account have now been definitively fulfilled: “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Amen.

Fr. Chris said Pope Benedict is reminding us that we have a lot to give and thanks and praise to the Lord for. We are sharing in the newness of life that only Easter can bring. If we die with Christ and live with Christ, we shall rise with Christ (St. Paul). David said the emphasis is on human suffering, that we remember that it is the Cross that Jesus has overcome. That “black line” has caused immense suffering the world. Pope Benedict said the suffering is real, but Jesus Christ has risen to today and everything is different. Scot said see how much good is brought out of love today because of Easter.

4th segment: Now considering Pope Benedict’s Urbi et Orbi message, delivered from the central window of St. Peter’s Basilica overlooking St. Peter’s Square. He does this once per year. Fr. Chris said it means “City and the World”. It’s a reminder that he is both Bishop of Rome, but also leader of the Catholic Church and speaking to every person of good will in the world. It’s a powerful message. As soon as he finishes the Easter mass, he proclaims this message from the place where he was proclaimed as pope upon his election. He traditionally highlights his concerns and requests for prayer for the world. This location is only used for this purpose and for papal elections.

Right down to our own time – even in these days of advanced communications technology – the faith of Christians is based on that same news, on the testimony of those sisters and brothers who saw firstly the stone that had been rolled away from the empty tomb and then the mysterious messengers who testified that Jesus, the Crucified, was risen. And then Jesus himself, the Lord and Master, living and tangible, appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and finally to all eleven, gathered in the Upper Room (cf. Mk 16:9-14).

Fr. Chris said we do rely on the testimony of others that Christ has died and rise, but just as important is the witness of the martyrdom of those who died for preaching the Risen Christ. David said it is important that the Good News is passed on from one witness to another so that we are all taking part in God’s plan of salvation. It is part of the plan of salvation that Christians testify to it and that it passed on from person to another.

Scot said he loves that the Holy Father brought in modern communications, that witnessing can take place using all technologies and methods both old and new. We share the Good News in every way we communicate with others. Fr. Chris said that bringing children to Church, living the faith and sharing it with children, is part of that. All the technology doesn’t matter if people aren’t willing to tell others about the message of Christ.

The resurrection of Christ is not the fruit of speculation or mystical experience: it is an event which, while it surpasses history, nevertheless happens at a precise moment in history and leaves an indelible mark upon it. The light which dazzled the guards keeping watch over Jesus’ tomb has traversed time and space. It is a different kind of light, a divine light, that has rent asunder the darkness of death and has brought to the world the splendour of God, the splendour of Truth and Goodness.

David said that every time in our lives that something beautiful happens that is the light of Christ erupting into creation. That’s what we want to communicate in a life of holiness. The more we love well, the more the light will enter the world.

Fr. Chris said that because it is supernatural light, it permeates all darkness.

Scot takes away from this the emphasis that this is a real historical event. Christ entered history, He really died, and He really rose from the dead.

“In your resurrection, O Christ, let heaven and earth rejoice.” To this summons to praise, which arises today from the heart of the Church, the “heavens” respond fully: the hosts of angels, saints and blessed souls join with one voice in our exultant song. In heaven all is peace and gladness. But alas, it is not so on earth! Here, in this world of ours, the Easter alleluia still contrasts with the cries and laments that arise from so many painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence. Yet it was for this that Christ died and rose again! He died on account of sin, including ours today, he rose for the redemption of history, including our own. So my message today is intended for everyone, and, as a prophetic proclamation, it is intended especially for peoples and communities who are undergoing a time of suffering, that the Risen Christ may open up for them the path of freedom, justice and peace.

Fr. Chris said here you see the contrast of the pilgrim Church, that one day we will arrive at eternal life, but before we get there we still encounter suffering in the world. This is why Christ redeemed us, so that we could trust in the fact that one day all would be well.

David said Christ explodes the depths of suffering from the inside. We think of the horrific victims today and in history when we consider the Victim on the Cross. It is the light of God and true love that will convert all things to life.

Scot said the Holy Father mentions specific peoples in the Middle East and in Japan and others who are struggling. Regardless of what they’re battling, Christi is their answer too, because he will lighten the load and carry the burden.

Fr. Chris said faith takes on a context lived in the lives of people who are suffering. It’s in our times of suffering and sadness that we go right to the Lord that He is our only hope in the midst of the human condition.

Dear brothers and sisters! The risen Christ is journeying ahead of us towards the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Rev 21:1), in which we shall all finally live as one family, as sons of the same Father. He is with us until the end of time. Let us walk behind him, in this wounded world, singing Alleluia. In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there are smiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us. For this reason we sing and we walk, faithfully carrying out our task in this world with our gaze fixed on heaven. Happy Easter to all of you!

David said this is so moving because Pope Benedict is reaching into all of our lives to say that there isn’t a pain there that Christ hasn’t touched and hasn’t given a new purchase on a life of Divine Love. This is why we need to tell everyone we meet that Jesus Christ is alive and that changes everything.

Fr. Chris said there is also the idea of finishing the race and running it well. Christ is the trailblazer before us and we follow behind him on this path to the Father. The Cross is the ladder to the heavens. We can’t get there on our own. We need the gift of Jesus’ cross.

Scot said he loves what it says that we carry out our lives, walk behind Jesus with our gazes fixed on heaven. It gives us something to think about at our next hour of adoration.

5th segment: Now considering the influence of Pope John Paul on the lives of the hosts and guest.

Scot said he’s never met someone who would become Blessed. He met him twice up front. Scot pointed out that Pope John Paul is being beatified for his virtues and holiness, not his papacy.

David said he was raised a Baptist in Arkansas, and it was the presence of John Paul in the world that partly drew him to the Church eventually. There was an intense holiness that drew him in. His first-born son is John Paul and his second son is Benedict. He asks for prayers for his wife and their third son who is to be born next week.

Fr. Chris said he has Polish heritage and growing up in a Polish section of Dorchester, he saw the excitement and joy of the Polish people at his election. He met Pope John Paul along with his Aunt Judy and it was an awesome experience of being in the presence of someone holy and who believed and drew close to Christ Jesus. He was also struck by his love for the Blessed Mother. John Paul lost his own mother at an early age and she became a real mother for him. John Paul was responsible for the image of Mary that was put up on the wall of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

John Paul’s press spokesman said his great virtue was being truly present for each person who came before him. Scot and his brother were privileged to go to Mass in the pope’s chapel in the apostolic palace. They were able to ask him to pray for their great aunt who was dying and he stopped them to pray for her right at that moment. He was able to tell her that Holy Father had prayed for her by name.

Fr. Chris said he was often struck at World Youth Days by the young people who felt like the Holy Father had looked at them personally. He drew people in to himself and pointed them to Christ.

David’s favorite works of John Paul is the Theology of Body because it was so revolutionary to the way we talk about the faith in the modern world in the context of the sexual revolution especially. Scot said the way the Theology of the Body was taught in the weekly audiences was a way to teach this because some officials did not want him to write a book about sex. Thus it was “written into the record” as it was.

Fr. Chris said the seminarians today are generally those who were inspired by Pope John Paul II, especially from World Youth Days. He also helped to revolutionize how seminary formation takes place.

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