Wishing parishioners a joy-filled Easter season
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The Church continues to celebrate the great feast of Easter for 50 days, so I say again to all of you: Happy Easter! He, our Risen Lord, is the only source of all our faith and hope, and He is the Truth that makes our love bear fruit. The fruits of Divine Mercy are continually shared with us. Jesus, we trust in you! Let us continue to place all our trust in Him, whose mercy is so great, and so near to us always.
THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION
My own joy in these days is much increased because I am blessed to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation with so many of you, and your families. How good God is to us! He gives us His own Spirit, the Holy Spirit, so generously, along with His seven great gifts, so that our faith and our holiness will always be strong. The world has a spirit too, as we know all too well, one who does not give us gifts nor wish us well, even in this life. Against the darkness and fear of “Satan and all the evil spirits who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls,” we are called to let the bright light of Jesus Christ our Lord and of the Holy Spirit shine forth. May Saint Michael the Archangel continue to defend us in the battle. This light of holy faith gives us two entirely trustworthy anchors for our lives: to worship God in the Church, so as to be entirely one with Him in the most blessed sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, and to love one another as God loves us, in charity and truth. The Holy Spirit dwells in us so that we can do both. Both together are the one New Commandment, the heart of the New Covenant and God’s plan for us. When we hold fast to these two anchors, love of God and love of neighbor, then the light of Christ and of the Holy Spirit will indeed shine forth in us.
I am joyful to see, over and over again, how eager our young confirmandi are to grow in this holy catholic faith, and to give themselves to Christ. I thank you all for your zeal and your holy ambition. Your faith will make all the difference in the world! I also thank all your parents, pastors, teachers and sponsors, who have passed on to you our living faith, not simply a set of rules for living a moral life, one choice among many – but as the spark that sets our hearts burning with love, to serve Christ and to help others grow in holiness.
BLESSED JOHN PAUL II
This spark, this fire, is our gift of grace, which we receive from Jesus Christ especially in the seven sacraments. This love of God and neighbor, this longing for the salvation of others, this courage to be light in the darkness – this is what we mean by the “universal call to holiness,” which we first heard when we were baptized. Pope Benedict XVI said this for us again last week, in his homily at the beatification of Blessed Pope John Paul II, on May 1. “Dear brothers and sisters, today our eyes behold, in the full spiritual light of the risen Christ, the beloved and revered figure of John Paul II. Today his name is added to the host of those whom he proclaimed saints and blesseds during the almost twenty-seven years of his pontificate, thereby forcefully emphasizing the universal vocation to the heights of the Christian life, to holiness, taught by the conciliar Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium. All of us, as members of the people of God – bishops, priests, deacons, laity, men and women religious – are making our pilgrim way to the heavenly homeland where the Virgin Mary has preceded us, associated as she was in a unique and perfect way to the mystery of Christ and the Church.”
We thank God for giving us such holy men and women in every generation. They pray for us daily before the throne of God, and their example can inspire us in many different ways. Among the great diversity of those whose holiness is recognized by the pilgrim Church, Mary our holy Mother always stands out as the perfect model of faith. We honor her especially during this month of May. All the saints, and all of us trying to be holy now, aspire to love her Son, Jesus, with the same love as Mary. As Blessed Pope John Paul II so often said, “Totus tuus:” we aspire to be “totally hers,” so that we can be “totally His.”
Finally, if we are truly to be “totus tuus,” we must have the courage to be unpopular. Many times, the “spirit of the world” presents a half-truth or a partial good, and expects our uncritical support. Sometimes, when supporting the part means betraying the whole, our humble fidelity to Jesus Christ means that we proclaim the whole truth or good, and refuse to support only the part. This is never easy, and many of our friends and neighbors will resent us. They will believe we are criticizing them, or acting self-righteously or holier-than-thou. This can be seen especially when we speak the truth in love about such things as contraception, same-sex marriage, abortion and in vitro fertilization. Then we must cling all the more to our faith, anchored unshakably in love of God and love of neighbor, letting His light defend and justify us. This is part of the burden of the Cross, which we also bear along with Christ.
May all the blessings of the Risen Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit fill your hearts and lives! Please continue to pray for me and for your pastors, just as I pray always for all of you. May Easter peace and joy be yours in abundance.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
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