These are extraordinary times. I have never experienced an Easter quite like this as a Priest in separation without Mass in community or being together with my community of Faith, family and friends during this season. I believe these are unique times that call for a deeper response in faith and life as a People of God as one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith. These are times when we can grow from the challenges before us. This means we must deepen our response to God who is always present among us by prayer and conversion. The most important things are to remember, God loves you always and “Jesus is Lord, He is risen!” (Rom 10:9).
Easter is the greatest and the most important feast in the Church for three reasons: The Resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian Faith because it is the greatest of the miracles, for it proves that Jesus is God; Easter is the guarantee of our own resurrection; Easter is a feast which gives us hope and encouragement. Easter is the ultimate example of God’s presence where we believe in the Resurrected Christ who is beyond all earthly limitations who can be everywhere at anytime. Especially in the Eucharist which unites us as the Body of Christ through Spiritual Communion. Take this to heart and find strength, belief and a deeper faith in the glory of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. In the words of the Holy Angel “Do not be afraid”. Jesus told his disciples and us so many times, “Do not be afraid”. We must have a faith that truly believes the words of Jesus especially in these difficult times.
Let Jesus’ words console and strengthen our resolve and determination as disciples. Jesus' own words testified to his Resurrection from the dead in Mark 8:31; Matthew 17:22; Luke 9:22. Jesus assured Martha at the tomb of Lazarus: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; whoever believes in Me will live even though he dies” (Jn 11:25-26). Jesus will raise us up on the last day, but it is also true, in a sense, that we have already risen with Christ. By virtue of the Holy Spirit, our Christian life is already a participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ. St. Paul writes: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your Faith is in vain… And if Christ has not been raised, then your Faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins… But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor 15:14, 17, 20). In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our Faith in Christ, a Faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross..." (CCC 638).
In this time, we have before us a means to find new life in the words and example of the readings and Gospel when we truly believe it and live it. We must choose to live as Christ by how we love and care for one another. In the first three readings we hear of the promise and love of God to his chosen people. In the Epistle, living for God through Christ Jesus means we seek a union and discipleship to follow him. In these last three days of the Sacred Triduum we experience great sorrow and then the great joy: through the death of Christ on the Cross on Good Friday, his descent into Hell on Holy Saturday to redeem those who awaited him, and today in this Holy celebration of Easter, the glorious Resurrection. Our sorrows and anxieties need to be left behind so we carry on by trust in God. We are given a joy of hope in the life and presence of Christ so to be one with him and one day experience our own Resurrection to be with God in Heaven. Why? Because we believe. That means we must seek the new life that lets go of the old self and death to sin and seek to be amongst the living.
Pope Francis in his Easter Vigil Homily encourages us in his commentary on the Angel’s words: ”Why do you seek the living among the dead? The women hear the words of the angels, who go on to say: “Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee” (Lk 24:6). Those women had lost hope, because they could not recall the words of Jesus, his call that took place in Galilee. Having lost the living memory of Jesus, they kept looking at the tomb. Faith always needs to go back to Galilee, to reawaken its first love for Jesus and his call: to remember him, to turn back to him with all our mind and all our heart. To return to a lively love of the Lord is essential. Otherwise, ours is a “museum” faith, not an Easter faith. Jesus is not a personage from the past; he is a person living today. We do not know him from history books; we encounter him in life. Today, let us remember how Jesus first called us, how he overcame our darkness, our resistance, our sins, and how he touched our hearts with his word... Dear brothers and sisters: let us put the Living One at the center of our lives. Let us ask for the grace not to be carried by the current, the sea of our problems; the grace not to run aground on the shoals of sin or crash on the reefs of discouragement and fear. Let us seek him in all things and above all things. With him, we will rise again.”
Although we cannot be together now, we will be together in the future. We must have enduring and persevering faith, hope and love. We must rise to the occasion of these extraordinary times and live the Gospel by our lives as witnesses. We are called to give glory to God by our prayers, devotions, acts of mercy and trust in God. Although separated, we are still the Body of Christ. I pray someday soon, God willing, we will be gathered together again under one roof as a People of God in Mass and the Sacraments. This Mass Intention and spiritual communion in the Eucharist celebrated this day is for you as a Parish. Remember that our prayers unite us together with Jesus Our Risen Lord as we pray for one another, our Parish, Bishop Joe, Diocese, community, nation, Pope, the whole Catholic Church and those affected by the COVID19 virus. May the special blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you always. Jesus Christ is Risen, Alleluia!
Question: Why is there a need for annulments? Haven’t divorcees already been through enough pain? Why make them go through more pain and paperwork?
Answer: Our Catholic Church teaches us about marriage; Among the many blessings that God has showered upon us in Christ is the blessing of marriage. His hand has inscribed the vocation to marriage in the very nature of man and woman. An annulment is a declaration by a Church tribunal (a Catholic church court) that a marriage thought to be valid according to Church law actually fell short of at least one of the essential elements required for a binding union. “Annulment” is an unfortunate word that is sometimes used to refer to a Catholic “declaration of nullity.” Actually, nothing is made null through the process. For a Catholic marriage to be valid, it is required that: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they are capable of giving their consent to marry; (3) they freely exchange their consent; (4) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another, and be open to children; (5) they intend the good of each other; and (6) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by Church authority.
In fidelity to Jesus’ teaching, the Church believes that marriage is a lifelong bond (see Matt 19:1-10); therefore, unless one’s spouse has died, the Church requires the divorced Catholic to obtain a declaration of nullity before marrying someone else. The tribunal process seeks to determine if something essential was missing at the moment of consent, that is, the time of the wedding. If so, the Church can declare that a valid marriage was never actually brought about on the wedding day. Yes divorce is painful and difficult for spouses. What the Church’s purpose is for those requesting an annulment is to help in the healing of divorce through a process of steps that allow for finding closure. There are several types of annulments. Most are fairly easy to complete. It is the Formal Case that takes the most work and length of time. In the Formal Case, some people find that simply writing out their testimony helps them to understand what went wrong and why. They gain insights into themselves. Others say that the process allowed them to tell their whole story for the first time to someone who was willing to listen. The process takes patience and willingness to work with your Priest as well as the Diocesan Tribunal Office to make a case for annulment and then a determination. Yes it is a lot of paperwork for a Formal case of annulment but the hope is to create a detailed and exact case so the justice of God’s Church can resolve the issue with justice and fairness. We must pray for those going through Divorce and Annulments to receive the healing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.