Christ’s death – and rising – shower us with mercy
The Paschal Triduum, the period of three days beginning with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper and ending with Easter Sunday, is considered the highlight of the church’s liturgical year. Can you explain why this is so?
At the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. The message is clear: Christ died and rose from the dead, and that’s a message of hope, a message that we’re never left alone. The Risen Christ no longer lives in a tomb but he lives in our hearts and in our world and in the church, which is his body today. It’s critical during this Easter season that we recognize that the Lord Jesus suffered and died for us. He has come to bring us mercy. We reflect on his saving mission in a special way this year during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The mercy that the Risen Christ gives to us – and which we embrace – helps us to accept God’s forgiveness, to forgive ourselves and to forgive others. If we truly do that, then we can celebrate the new life of the Risen Christ during the Easter season.
What are your thoughts as we celebrate Easter?
At its core, the Easter message is the same every year, but it always echoes just a little bit differently given the world in which we live. Across the globe there are wars and rumors of war. In our own country, we are experiencing a presidential political campaign that tramples any notion of civility. The people who live in our own archdiocese are beset with violence, murder and racism as we continue to fight the New Battle of New Orleans. So many families in the last month have been affected by the tornadoes and the flooding. And within our own families, we often have challenging times of disagreement, despair and perhaps even depression. But the Easter season reminds us that physical death and emotional struggles are not the final word. The final word is new life in the Risen Christ. When we join the crosses that we bear every day – those small deaths in our everyday lives – with the cross of Jesus, we have the Risen Christ’s promise of new life.
You will make your presence felt in a special way this week when you wash the feet of prisoners at Rivarde Juvenile Detention Home in Harvey on Holy Thursday and then celebrate the Stations of the Cross for inmates of Orleans Parish Prison on Good Friday.
I am following the example of Pope Francis, who washed the feet of juvenile offenders on his first Holy Thursday as pope. His example came to my mind during prayer one day, and I thought, if he can do it, that’s a great example to me. It’s important that we reach out not only to our family, friends and neighbors but also to those whom we don’t see. I am meeting the young people at Rivarde not only to wash their feet but also to show them that Christ cares for them and that the church cares for them. We want to be there for them when they are released from the detention center, and we want to be able to celebrate new life with them. The Way of the Cross at Orleans Parish Prison is another opportunity to share God’s word of hope with those who are incarcerated. God’s mercy knows no bounds. I also want them to know that as they embrace the forgiveness of the Risen Christ, he calls them to share in his new life. I will reassure them that the people of God will be there for them when they come out of prison to help them start a new life. We have a “Welcome Home” program within our prison ministry that has been very helpful to those who have gone through it. Easter is a season in which we celebrate hope and new life, not just for ourselves but also for those who are not seen and who are often forgotten.
What is your Easter message to the people of the archdiocese?
Please know that as we celebrate this feast of Easter – the glory of the Risen Christ – that I am lifting up to the Lord in my Easter season Masses the people of our archdiocese. As spread out and as different as we are in this archdiocese, the people of God in this local church are united as one family. We belong to the Risen Christ. May we accept his mercy and new life!