In 1995, I wrote a book entitled “Late Have I Loved Thee: Stories of Religious Conversion and Commitment in Later Life.” The book reported the findings of a sociology study I had conducted, which looked at why people become Catholic later in life. The stories I was told by people who became Catholic from the ages of 65 to 90 were inspirational. Among the findings was that the desire to belong to a community of faith played a key role in becoming Catholic. Older converts were seeking both meaning in life and belonging to a community of faith.
Each year at the Easter Vigil, as I witness the newest members of our family receive the sacraments, I am reminded of those converts who have shared their stories with me, how converts see with fresh eyes the treasure of our Catholic community, and how deeply they understand and appreciate the glorious fact that we are an Easter people.
God’s gifts flow to us through the community of the Church, and the graces of our Lord are especially evident during the sacred Triduum. Christ’s passion, sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection mark the defining moment in history, the moment that captures the depth of God’s love for us and what life is all about. I love the truth we proclaim in the fourth eucharistic prayer, which speaks to these realities: “He always loved those who were his own in the world. When the time came for him to be glorified by you, his heavenly father, he showed the depth of his love.”
The gift of love from Good Friday is freedom from sin. There are thousands of reasons why God the Father, in his love for us, chose to send Christ his Son, but the primary reason was to free us from sin. The original sin of humankind was that we had chosen to separate ourselves from God. From that moment on, God’s effort has been to bring us back into communion with him.
Easter celebrates the new life given to the community, especially through the gift of baptism. This year in the Archdiocese of Boston, we will welcome 500 new Catholics to the faith. Their faith journey inspires us and helps us to renew with greater fervor our own baptismal promises. In baptism, we are claimed for Christ for all eternity. Christ became man to bring us the gift of eternal life. Our eternal life does not begin the moment we die; it began the moment we were imagined by God. Today is part of our eternal life. Our time on earth is brief, a mere moment within our eternal lives. Our struggles will pass, and one day we will know fully the joy and happiness God wants for us. Good Friday puts our sin in perspective. Easter puts all of life in perspective.
Saturday evening, at the central liturgy of the year, we will welcome new Catholics into the Church. Their spiritual journey will be united to our journey with the Lord. During this moment of great joy, let each of us look anew at our community of faith so that we may see with fresh eyes the treasure it truly is. Let us thank God that we are an Easter people.
Father Richard M. Erikson is Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese of Boston.