A flower that remains dormant in the spring will wither and die. So also, if we do not use the talents God has given us and preach to all as Jesus asks in Matthew 28: 18-20 for all we need do is remember His words "Do not be afraid." (Matthew 28:10).
As we come to the end of Lent and embrace with joy the Glorious Resurrection, let us remember that we cannot achieve the Resurrection unless we have first embraced and borne the Cross, suffered with Jesus, and died to ourselves in and for Him. Leave the rest to God. Let Him decide what is best, and how and when to use us in His Plan of Salvation. This is Mary's call to all of us. This is her plea to all her little ones gathered beneath her mantle. The cross each carries will be different. But they all come from the One True Cross of Christ, Who alone is the Savior of the world. If we look only to Him, then we'll stop looking at one another, making comparisons, allowing our human weakness to get the better of us, and allowing satan to keep us divided. If we look only at Jesus on the Cross and then see Him gloriously risen from the dead, how can we be divided? He died for all mankind, even though He knew there would be many who would not accept Him. He did not compare or grumble or complain. He was obedient to the Divine Will, even unto death. And so, too, we must be.
We must decrease that He may increase in us. Let this be for us the motto of every day henceforth, that with Mary, we may stand fearlessly at the foot of the Cross, and with her offer our lives for the salvation of our own soul and the souls of others. This way the Resurrection takes on a new meaning - the flowering of fulfillment - the evangelization of God's Love. We offer Jesus' Own words in John 11: 25-26 as proof that if we trust in Him we will conquer every obstacle and be united with Him forever. "I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me, even if he die, shall live; and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die."
I notice the three Roman soldiers. They are sound asleep, having wrapped their mantles about their bodies as blankets against the chill. They have no comfortable position, leaning against rocks, their bodies stretched upon hard, damp ground. I am given to understand that these soldiers, as all Roman soldiers, are accustomed to a truly rugged life. Their sleep is deep, due partly to the wine they have consumed and the deep sleep God permits them to have as His glorious plan for mankind unfolds.
I feel myself drawn closer to the tomb. I move until I am perhaps fifteen to twenty feet from the massive stone slab covering the entrance to the tomb.
Suddenly, I hear the most wondrous sound. It is a sound of harmonious voices raised in song. It is a heavenly sound for I am instantly lifted up in my soul and then can understand the words of this angelic song.
"Glory to God Who is everlasting. All Praise to the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Rejoice all Heaven and earth, for the Son of God has truly triumphed. Death has been conquered. He has kept His promise, and now the Glory of God is revealed."
And to my eyes, in this interior vision, it seems as if all darkness is forever dispelled. There is no 'night' as I beheld it only a moment ago. There is light-everywhere-indescribable, brilliant, emanating from a source that, I am given to understand, is the very Life of all Creation, God Himself. And still I am given to understand that what I am given to see is but a mere fraction of this glorious light, this Power and Majesty which causes all creation to have its being.
Within this wondrous light, more magnificent than any human words can describe are those beings who take their form from the light. These heavenly beings, angels, fill the vault of the heavens and seem to draw closer to the earth, bringing this splendid light with them.
Why can not the Roman soldiers hear such glory, for it is glory that approaches? Even in their sated sleep the sound must penetrate, for I can feel the earth beneath my feet tremble at the sound. Not a trembling as on Good Friday when the earth shook and was rent asunder. This is the trembling of awe, of respect before the Almighty. The light is almost too brilliant to behold. I know the Good Lord supports me, and allows me to 'see' that which no mortal eye could behold. I want to run forward, to shout and wake the soldiers, but I cannot move, and my eyes remain fixed. I am looking east, where the pre-dawn sky will soon form, developing its rose-purple hues, changing to pink, and then transforming to gold. East, where the new day is approaching, is yet veiled by night's overwhelming shadows.
And with my eyes thus transfixed, I see even brighter than the light, which Heaven has sent to illuminate the earth, a light of gold. It is so intense, so pulsating and dazzling, that all the other heavenly light pales by comparison. I do not think of time. I do not think time exists in what I am privileged to see. It can only be expressed thus: On the far eastern horizon, I behold what I describe as an orb of resplendent gold. It seems to remain in position and then, suddenly, with speed beyond my ability to describe, this golden orb moves. To say it 'shoots' or 'streaks' the sky is to be foolhardy, relying on finite words to describe the infinite. This movement can best be described as moving from the far eastern horizon to the very garden where I stand transfixed, in less than a second. And this golden orb comes with the sound of a great wind, accompanied by an ever-increasing sound of angel voices whose voices rise higher and higher in praise.
The golden orb pierces, without making either mark or sound, the great stone slab in front of the tomb, and in the tiny cracks where the seal is not perfect, golden light spills out into the garden. It is so intense that the tome cannot contain it. It is spilling out upon the ground, touching the soldiers. This light pierces even the one soldier atop the tomb.
I feel myself fall to my knees in the sight of God's glory! I am given to understand that the golden orb is the Divine Soul of our Dear Lord. The soul, so beautiful as to surpass all beauty, enters into the tomb.
I am not permitted to see our Blessed Lord's soul re-enter His Sacred Body, for I am told that this shall be revealed to the just in Heaven, so great and glorious a mystery it is! So magnificent that human intelligence cannot grasp its significance, nor give due praise to the Father from Whom all life emanates, and is meant to reflect a semblance of this same golden light as I have seen representing Jesus' soul. The praises of the angels have reached a crescendo! No human voice could come close; no human instrument could ever repeat the sound. At its height I realize that the light is actually coming through the rock, straight through it. And in awe, in deepest respect, I behold walking through the rock the resurrected body, glorified, of Jesus Christ, God and Savior.
I bow, lying prostrate before Him. He is beyond description. I cannot begin to find a single word. The destruction, which His mortal body underwent from Holy Thursday till His death upon the cross, has been totally annihilated. From Him radiates, pulsates, beams of golden rays of light that pierce, penetrate, and probe the creature. I am awash in this light. The soldiers are also, but they remain unaware of it. I do not understand why.
My beloved Jesus is suspended above the ground. He is clothed in snow-white garments that, for me, seem to be woven of light. There is only resplendence, and I am drawn to look at His hands, His feet, and His Sacred side, where the nails pierced, where the soldier's lance pierced, fountains, oceans of light stream outward as Jesus still gives Himself to us. Though I do not move, nor do I utter any words, yet I realize my Jesus sees me. He smiles with such Love, and I am at once encased in the warmth of His Loving, Merciful Embrace. I am drawn to Him. I do not ever desire to leave Him, my Lord and my God. Jesus smiles, and His hand is raised in blessing. Then as quickly as all of these miracles have transpired, my Jesus is gone, and the darkness of night, or rather early morning, once again fills the garden, and the soldiers slumber on.
But my soul, wretched and miserable, has beheld my God. I am filled with joy beyond words, and pure hope lifts me to my feet. He has given me His Peace. It is part of His Glory. I cling to it, savor and treasure it as the interior vision ends.
And that's all it takes; He does the rest. In a matter of seconds the Apostles were transformed from bewildered, timid, apprehensive men into bold, brave and wise leaders. No amount of college degrees or work experience could prepare them for what lie ahead. Without the strength of Christ's Spirit, they'd have called it in long before the real persecution started. Where's the closest hiding place? They proved that during Our Lord's Passion and Death. Where were they? Except for Saint John, the rest hightailed it with a yellow streak down their backs as fast as they could. When questioned, look how Saint Peter denied any involvement with the Son of God. It says something for the "weaker sex" that they were the stronger gender during the time when faith carried them slowly and painfully up the rocky crags of Calvary's path, trailing the scourged and blood-soaked, weakened Christ.
It would have been the perfect, most logical reason for Our Lord to proclaim that, because of their loyalty in the face of so much despair, that they should also be priests. After all, who was the most experienced of all in the knowledge of God's Will than the Blessed Virgin Mary? And who were more loyal in heeding Jesus' words than Mary Magdalene, not to mention Martha and Mary? So if the Son of God didn't appoint women priests then, why should anyone in their right mind think they should be ordained today? Because the times changed? Because we're so much more advanced than 2000 years ago? Because Jesus changed His mind? The answer is an emphatic "no" to all three queries. First of all, the change in times and cultures are not God's doing but rather the prince of darkness; secondly we really aren't more advanced than 2000 years ago? Oh, technologically yes, but spiritually? You'd get an argument there. Finally, God cannot "change His mind" for He always was, is and ever will be and knows all things. It's called omniscient. In other words, there's no hindsight with the Almighty. So regarding women joining the ecclesial ranks, if you truly hold to the Catholic creed, you won't even think about it. God said it, we believe it, that settles it!
But when it comes to the lay ranks, there is no discrimination and therein lies the strength of the Church today. The thirty-year drought of vocations, which many believe was a combination of the world and Vatican II, is starting to receive the gentle, soothing rain of grace and in many countries the seminaries are flowing with potential priests. Even in America, the most highly occupied training grounds for the consecrated are where traditional, orthodox beliefs are practiced and carried out. As an example we give you the Archdiocese of Denver where a prestigious new major seminary is to be built under the guidance of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., one of the guiding lights for the third millennium. It is no coincidence that the Hidden Flower of the Immaculate Heart, while visiting Denver in 1992 and praying at the Mother Cabrini Shrine received a message that Denver would be the seat of families that would spread out to the entire country in time. She also received a message in 1991 that the Cincinnati area would be a hub for religious life fanning out from there. That was before the Center at Norwood began which is now showing great fruits. The same with Denver where in 1992 the head of the See there was Archbishop James Francis Stafford who since has become a cardinal and has been appointed President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. A coincidence? No way! Rather a well-planned Providential schematic for reinforcing the lay ranks in the great battle that lies ahead.
That's the gist of this column. The battle is inevitable. While many are thinking the physical clash with Serbia is the great battle, they have missed the greater, more destructive battle that has been bitterly waged over the past thirty years in which the great enemy satan has called upon all his wiles and full forces of his legions to divide and conquer. Many believe that without Pope John Paul II at the helm of the Barque of Peter the devil would have claimed victory long ago. Many also believe strongly that Our Lady's many, many visits to countless messengers and visionaries these past two centuries, especially over these past few decades, have played a significant role in reawakening the laity to the faith and the vital mission ahead. Mary herself calls those faithful to her: members of her "little army." And why not? We are, after all, members of the Church Militant and in order to reach "T-Day" (joining the Church Triumphant) we need to be combat ready! For thirty some years we have been in an extended boot camp, training, marching, polishing our prayers, taking orders without questioning in preparation for that time when we will be called upon, just as the Apostles were some two millenniums ago. If we are not ready to defend the ramparts of the Church, the foxholes of virtue, and the flanks of fidelity, we will be in over our heads. Too many of us have skated during this time of preparation. Too many of us aren't conscious of the influence of the Holy Paraclete's power. Too many of our ranks have gone AWOL, forsaking the grind of everyday prayer, penance and sacrifice for the lures of fleeting wants and wishes. They weren't ready to say "Yes!" and mean it. Somebody else who wasn't ready was Judas and we all know what happened to him. It's our choice, we can either languish in luxury here on earth, seeking to stock up on temporal bounties, or we can follow the example of the Apostles, the Saints and many in the Church today and totally commit ourselves to being crack, elite troops who are willing to die for the sake of Christ.
It's long been said "war is hell" and you can better believe the battle ahead will be both war and hell because the author of the nether regions is the commander-in-chief of this all-out, desperate last assault on God's children. Already there have been far too many casualties. We're not talking about physical deaths in battle, but spiritual deaths, the kind lucifer's legions cheer the loudest for. But each one of us can be a deterrent to the demons' quest. With the weapons of the Faith and the Rosary, all we need do to be prepared is say "Yes" to Jesus and truly mean it with every fiber of our bones, every fiber of our hearts, of our souls. For that is what's at stake in this great war that is about to accelerate soon - souls! So if we're serious about fulfilling our responsibilities as members of the Church Militant, then we better get serious about accelerating our preparation and call upon the great Sanctifier to infuse us with His Gifts and His graces. During this Easter Week when we observe the final week of Divine Mercy Week for the millennium, we must realize time is running out fast for all to drink from the bountiful, refreshing Font of Mercy. Soon the Justice will be upon us because the cup is overflowing. Time's a wastin', if we're truly serious about this salvation strategy, we need to hop to it!
What love God has for us! His love was proved by His Passion and Death. "Greater love than this no one has that he lay down his life for his friends," Jesus said.
I love Easter! The smell of the lilies, the spring refreshing colors, the Easter stories told us in Scripture!
There is one story in particular that affects me deeply. I always weep when I consider it! Not out of sadness but rather sheer understanding of how it could be! It is the Scripture passage of the Mary that went to the tomb early Easter morning to finish tending (washing, etc.) the body of Jesus. Remember that the Jewish Sabbath began with sunset on Friday (Good Friday) and ended Sunday morning. The strict Jewish law was observed by faithful Jews. Certain works were forbidden during the Sabbath time, therefore, the followers of Jesus were rushed to bury the body of Jesus before sunset Friday evening.
So here comes the faithful disciple, Mary, still grieving deeply over what had happened to her Jesus. Her DEEP love for Jesus did not caution her with practicality. She hurried quickly to the tomb not thinking about how she was to handle the soldiers at the tomb. What was she to say to them to convince them of her charitable intent? How was she to roll back the stone in front of the tomb? Wasnít it much too big for her to move by herself?
But great love never worries about those things. Maryís passion drove her to tend to her Jesus. Her love would find a way. "Donít get in my way!" might have been a driving mode.
We know the story! When she arrives at the tomb, the soldiers are gone and the stone rolled away. She judges the worst. Her grief prevented her from remembering what Jesus had said. She thinks that the body of Jeus may have been stolen. Her grief deepens. She weeps harder than ever. What have they done to her Jesus? Her eyes clouded with tears, she notices a man she judges to be the gardener. He says to her: "'Woman, why are you weeping? 'Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him. If you, sir, know, please tell me and I will take Him away!'" (Even now my eyes are welling with tears! How I can identify with Mary! How I understand how she is feeling!)
Then the "gardener" says one word which changes everything. He says her name: "Mary!" It was the way He said it. She had heard that loving tone before. It was when He said her name that she recognized Him.
God know our names, also. Do you hear Him say your name with such love and tenderness? It is the same for you and me. The sheep know the voice of the Shepherd.
Be filled with joy this Easter! The Master calls your name. He knows you. You are His.
Happy Easter, my friends in Jesus. We have a right to hope! God loves us. Jesus lives! Amen!
God bless you!