We need Easter to break us free from our own limitations of thought and intellect. This is what many college students, who were confirmed by Cardinal O'Malley last Saturday at the Cathedral, have discovered.
Nothing is impossible with God! This is what Easter tells us. We hear in the readings during this great liturgical season about Jesus and his unexpected appearances to his disciples that are radically reorienting reality for them and the order of their lives. He's changing the way they think and live now because he is breaking through their finite limitations of thought and perception to see a new reality of his presence with them despite their inability to totally understand and comprehend how he is with them. They cannot remain indifferent.
They are experiencing and living the mystery of Jesus with them-"divine and whole in all its parts"-without adding or taking away the reality of what is happening. All that he has said has truly come to pass. He is truly risen! Banished is the darkness of any fears, doubts or uncertainties that may have arisen about him in his seeming powerlessness and submission-in extreme humility- to suffer his Passion and Death. The outcome of his Resurrection could not have been humanly-conceived or ordered for now "...death is annihilated, the evil ones are cast down, the angels rejoice, life is liberated and the tomb is emptied of its dead." Now we shall rise one day, too, and be with him and those whom we love. This still could seem unbelievable, illusory and contrary to rational belief, especially in the context of our culture today, but the Resurrection is immersed in the logic of the excessive love of God for us.
It has happened that during this particular liturgical year, we heard the story of the Annunciation proclaimed the second week of Easter. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that she will conceive and bear a Son and his name will be Jesus, Son of the Most High. Mary is also told that Elizabeth will conceive and bear a son in her old age beyond any human capability at this point in life for nothing is impossible with God! Mary's fiat sets everything in motion for us. The foundation of Jesus coming as Man and taking on our flesh, in everything except sin, his Passion, Death and Resurrection, the giving of the Church to us, the sacraments, especially his Body and Blood to nourish us in the Eucharist-are all because of his abundant, overflowing love for us that defies any intellectual resolution. Some early Church Fathers and contemporary theologians have referred to this love and care for us as a "condescending" love but Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called it "indulgent." It is always seeking us, desiring to be in intimate union with us, offering us to partake in the very life of God. The mystery of this love for us goes beyond our understanding and comprehension. Is there any better offer?
The revelation of Jesus as Divine Mercy to St. Faustina takes on special significance during this Easter Season as well and in this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis. It is trusting Jesus completely--not withholding anything back- so that he may accomplish in us what he desires for us. It's "fleeing the temptation" to live a life of mediocrity, to one that embraces, even leaps at the prospect of letting Jesus touch our lives and transform them so we may become the person he wants us to become, so that we may be his love-first and foremost- and his witness to all those whom we meet. What are we waiting for?
We need Easter to break us free from our own limitations of thought and intellect. This is what many college students, who were confirmed by Cardinal O'Malley last Saturday at the Cathedral, have discovered. The celebration of the sacrament of Confirmation for college students takes place every year during the Easter season in the Archdiocese. It is a very moving celebration for everyone present because the working of the Holy Spirit "renewing the face of the earth" is made manifest in the lives of the students who have come forth at this point in their lives to complete their reception of the sacraments of Christian initiation.
The living reality of the universal Church is also seen with the presence of the international students. One such student who was confirmed is from Vietnam and studying at Umass Lowell. She did not anticipate receiving the sacrament here in the United States so far away from home without her family present but she was following the Spirit's lead. We were meeting and discussing what it means to grow in deeper relationship with Jesus and be his disciple, what it means to be committed and never stop doing in service to others what he has done for us, beyond graduation and all her life. Helping to serve dinner to low-income families and the homeless at the Cor Unum Meal Center in South Lawrence is showing her how this love in action works: "What you did for others, you did for me." It is also discovering a way to pray without ceasing, even with a very busy schedule as a student, to stay on target, with the help of the grace of God, to grow in love of Jesus. This includes frequenting the sacraments and allowing herself to be transformed by him, especially in the Eucharist. She'll be going on retreat following Confirmation and taking the time to reflect and share not only what this academic year has been for her, but most especially how she has found God acting in her life in a new way and in the giving of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation.
We're surrounded with the abundant love of God for us and the Easter season helps us to open our eyes and believe and live this reality. We come to know and understand that nothing is impossible with God in our lives. Relationship with Christ becomes more believable, living, relational and the place of encounter with the living God instead of something that lacks relevance or any importance in life. The context of our lives, both spiritually and as lived out in the world, changes and we find God in all things. Rejoice!
Bernadine Kensinger is campus minister at The University of Massachusetts, Lowell