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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Witnessing to the Risen Lord

Christ is risen from the dead and in the shadow of His healing presence, Christians no longer are driven by a fear of death. Instead, imbued with the life of the Savior in them, they are healed and driven by obedience to the love of the Father. Thus, they boldly proclaim the victory of Christ in the face of death, and offer those who most need it, a reason for the hope they have inside. They do this because the Risen Lord has chosen to work through the mystery of frail human freedom. When we believe, He gives us the strength to love with an audacity that reveals God. It is in the sanctuary of each one's personal freedom that the Lord of Life gives this true power. To anyone who freely chooses to believe that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and accepts Him as Lord, He boldly forgives and abundantly communicates to them His very life. The greatest proclamation of this truth—its source and climax—is the Mass. Here the Scriptures are read and reflected on, prayers are offered, the words He spoke the night before He died are boldly uttered again, the peace He gave when He rose again, is given again. At the Mass, the medicine of immortality is offered to the whole Church whether or not we can be present. This healing love comes from Christ and He freely gives it to all who ask with faith and perseverance. Anyone who receives this healing love, even if he dies, lives forever. Of this healing remedy, nothing is rationed. All is generously given. Faith in Christ is about dealing with truth about the world and ourselves, and learning to love with His love, even in the face of death. Never a magical escape from suffering or sickness or life, this faith provides determination and confidence even as the world falls apart. It always sees the good and works for it, when what is good seems most impossible. In the current crisis, for many of us, the most loving thing we can offer to God is to stay home and take care of those entrusted to us. For others, the most loving thing may will require even greater audacity. No Christian is ever excused from pondering what is good and noble, and every Christian is compelled to act on it with deep gratitude for what Christ is bringing about in our midst. If from time to time through the centuries Christians have had to refrain from gathering together during times of plague, fear of death would never be an adequate explanation for what motivated their actions. Indeed, among some, maybe most, there would be moments of human weakness, but on the whole they acted for love for neighbor more than fear for themselves. Whatever the case, in their obedience to civil authority and common sense, they strove for noble rather than timid decisions. For those who live by faith in the Risen Lord, it cannot be any other way. There have always been some non-Christians who believe that the boldness of the faithful before death is irrational and possibly dangerous. This is equally the case today. During this deadly pandemic, some experts suspect that Christian worship is dangerous. When priests or religious expose themselves to death to minister to others, it only confirms their deep suspicions. No doubt that an abundance of caution under current circumstances is justified. Yet, there are some ironies that need consideration. For example, just how commercial interactions involved with cannabis or alcohol are less dangerous than limited gatherings for public prayer is not clear. Whatever the case, to really help patients and their loved one's deal with sickness and death, the worship of the Risen Christ would seem more rational and dignified than the escapism of substance abuse. Deeper prayer rather than more intoxication seems the better route to deal with the loneliness and anxieties of quarantine. There are healthy young priests and religious who feel compelled to minister to the sick and dying, and those who care for them. They suffer a certain ache to bring a word of hope into hopeless situations—it is why they were consecrated to God. They are not indifferent to the anxieties of those entrusted to their care and they are very mindful of the limits that social media imposes on the ministry. They need to be where Christ is at work and He is always at work among the most distressed and vulnerable. Obedient to due authority and observant of all the necessary precautions, at the end of the day, the love of Christ compels these ministers. The Risen Lord, at work in the world, is unleashing His eternal love in them—and, moved by this love unleashed, these witnesses to Christ cannot but unleash inestimable treasure where this healing power is most needed.

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