There is a liturgical saying concerning the Nativity: ‘The shadow of the cross falls back across the manager’; meaning that Christ was born to die. In fact, the shadow of the cross falls back upon all humanity, because of this very reason for Christ’s incarnation. He died for all of us. However, Catholicism is joyful faith; even on the most solemn liturgical celebrations like Good Friday we can’t help feeling joy and peace underneath our reflective sorrow. During the penitential seasons of Advent and Lenten joy bursts forth on Gaudete and Laetare Sundays. The great Exultet, at the opening of the Easter Vigil, poetically proclaims this understanding of our joy when describing Adam’s fall: ‘O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!’
In short, there would be no shadow of the cross if it wasn’t for the light of the resurrection.
This is the third week of the great season of the church that focuses on celebrating the central fact of our faith – Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Venerable Fulton Sheen wrote:
“The Cross had asked the questions; the Resurrection had answered them…The Cross had asked: “Why does God permit evil and sin to nail Justice to a tree?” The Resurrection answered: “That sin, having done its worst, might exhaust itself and thus be overcome by Love that is stronger than either sin or death.“
Eastertide celebrates this answer to the cross, our ascent towards salvation given to us by our Lord and God. It celebrates unbounded joy and peace because our Lord has done for us what we can never do for ourselves. It celebrates the radiance of divine light in a darkened world. It celebrates Love!
This action, the greatest of gifts that God gives us, opens heaven up to us. It opens our eyes to this truth, our ears to understanding, and our hearts to the Trinity. It also opens our very being to the calling of ministry, a ministry of revelation of this gift. It is our obligation and privilege of proclaiming it to everyone. But a question comes to mind, what does our witness really mean for those we witness to – what does our action do?
Today’s Gospel relates to us the importance of proclaiming the good news – we see the disciples return to from Emmaus to relate their journey with the risen Lord.
‘The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”’
Bringing the Gospel to others, brings Christ. Not a memory but the risen Lord; not a reminiscence but a relationship. One that we have, and God desires to have with everyone. It is our calling to bring the gospel to the world. In a very real way we follow our patron St John the Baptist, we herald the appearance of Lord in our midst. This is what we are called to do at the end of every Mass when we are dismissed, sent forth.
There are four dismissals for the Mass that the Deacon or Priest can use.
– Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
– Go forth, the Mass is ended.
– Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
– Go in peace.
Of the four the closest translation for the dismissal used for millennia ‘Ite Misa Est’ is ‘Go forth, the Mass is ended’. A more accurate translation is ‘Go, you are sent’; it is a sending of each of us to continue the Mass in the world by proclaiming the good news, in action and in words.
You might have noticed that I mostly use: ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.’ It is a beautiful command from the Lord to proclaim the good news of the Resurrection; to bring to those around us what has been given to us: joy and peace of salvation and the path to it.
In the first reading we see Peter living this out. Peter brings the gospel to those who killed Jesus. He tells the truth, regardless of what might happen to him. He also brings the forgiveness of Christ. What Christ said on the cross when he cried to His Father ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do’ is manifested in Peter’s actions and words. “Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”
Brothers and sisters, as the darkness of the COVID pandemic seems to be brightening a bit. As we look forward to a return to a more normal life let’s not settle for normal; let’s climb higher by fulfilling our calling to go forward and proclaim to the world the good news that this season celebrates. As with Peter so with us, don’t be afraid, be strengthened by the knowledge that Christ has gone before us, is walking next to us and bring him to others.
Our call to witness is an obligation, born out of Love, that we must respond to. Do we continue to just go about living our lives and passing by each other on street withholding the help Christ has commanded to us before His glorious ascension, when He said: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…’ Or do we, you and I, respond to our Risen Lord’s command and bring Him to others by witnessing to the gift that Easter Celebrates. It is up to us, but it seems to me that this year of darkness, and the isolation and polarization that it has inflicted upon us and all society, should drive us to the light and joy that Christ has offered on Easter almost 2000 years ago. Let’s go out, sent from the Mass and show who we are to those we meet.
‘We are the Easter people and Alleluia is our song’
 Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Lent and Easter Wisdom, 110
 Lk 24:35-36 (NAB)
 Lk 23:34 (NAB)
 Acts 3:17-19 (NAB)
 Mt 28:19-20a (NAB)
 Pope St John Paul II, Angeles Nov 30 1986