Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
There are very few times in our lives when our faith is tested. Perhaps during our college days, within our places of business or through our social communities, we were challenged to defend our Catholicism to those who tried to demean it. Perhaps we had to endure some ridicule from individuals who referred to us as bead rattlers, overly pietistic or superstitious. In our family lives, we may have been confronted with a disease, loss of a loved one or a tragedy. It is our faith and confidence in Jesus that directed us through the fog of uncertainty. We take confidence in His word, which offers us hope and assures us of His presence with and for us.
I have encountered many individuals who told me that, during their darkest moments, they felt the power of prayers offered by family and friends on their behalf. I must admit, I have experienced the same. Cardinal Francis George, one of the brightest minds in the modern Catholic Church – who was a friend and mentor – told me that when he lay dying in the hospital, he experienced the power of prayer and with it, a sense of calm and confidence in the Lord. He did not know whether he would live or die, but he knew that God was with him. In the Cardinal’s situation, he survived. However, he told me that this sense of lasting peace from prayer was forever a part of his spiritual journey.
This must be the strangest Holy Week that most of us have ever encountered. Rarely have we ever experienced a challenge that affects the entire nation, as well as the entire globe. The Coronavirus has attacked the very way we live our lives, how we conduct our businesses, the way we meet socially – and, it has denied our recreational enjoyments. For the last weeks, even attending daily and Sunday Mass has been closed to ensure personal safety.
Watching television brings a magnification to the problem, as we watch the national and worldwide numbers rising like the temperature in the heat of summer. Now, we find ourselves during this Holy time – the Holy Triduum – reaching out to God and attempting, through our faith, to make sense of the pandemic. We are doing this collectively. All of humanity is challenged, and it strikes at the very core of our faith. It presents us with the ultimate questions of life itself.
In the Triduum, we journey with Jesus in the last days of His life, through His suffering, His death and His Resurrection (the Paschal Mystery). God’s answer to all questions of life must be viewed through the lens of His Son, whose divine self-giving on the cross has restored our relationship with God and has assured us of life eternal. On the cross, we see a God whose love knows no bounds. We make our prayers with the sure and certain understanding that God hears us because He is with us.
We journey with Mary Magdala, Peter and John to the empty tomb. All of us must confront the tomb. It is our future, but not our end. However, it is our choice to either stay before the empty tomb, paralyzed by doubt and uncertainty, or profess the words of St. John, who stated, “He saw, and he believed.” The followers of Jesus encountered the risen Christ. They were different. They were changed. They no longer worried about their life, but now their life in Christ.
Our encounter this Easter before the empty tomb will change us, as we hear the words of the angel: “Do not be afraid!” Let us open our hearts and minds to the living Jesus, and in our prayers find peace and trust in the Lord, whose love offers us eternal life.
This is a Happy Easter because upon leaving the empty tomb, we seek to witness to Jesus in prayer as we LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the April 7, 2020, "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.