April 17, 2022

“Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ, our King, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation!” (from The Easter Proclamation). After forty days of prayer and sacrifice we have arrived at the great feast of Easter. Christians throughout the world will be gathering in churches on this day for prayer and celebrating the end of Lent. Many families traditionally will gather at home for food and being together. Though for many people throughout the world who still suffer because of the continuing danger of COVID and its variants, those suffering the continuing war and its effects in Ukraine and suffering because of natural disasters, they will not be able to celebrate this Easter as in previous times.

As we celebrate this Easter 2022, we give thanks to the many medical, scientists and health care workers who have worked tirelessly to combat the COVID virus and to keep us safe. As more and more people in the USA and other countries continue to receive vaccines and boosters, we are seeing the danger of this terrible disease slowly lessening. Though we all need to continue to be vigilant (wearing masks when appropriate, getting the vaccine and boosters, practicing good hygiene, etc.) we have been able to ease the restrictions that have kept us apart these past couple of years.

As we gather together this Easter to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and his promise that in baptism we also will rise with him on the last day, we do so remembering all those who have died due to COVID, those who continue to die or are injured in Ukraine and the many victims of violence and their families here in Chicago and throughout the USA. We pray for everyone throughout the world who is working so hard to bring peace and healing to our world. Even in the coldest, darkest and snow-filled Chicago winter months we placed our hope and trust that warmth would return. We trusted that trees will fill with leaves, flowers will bloom and the sun will reflect off the deep blue of Lake Michigan reminding us of the beauty of our earth and our honored place to be humans on God's good Earth.

Holy Week reminds us that Christ has shown us how to live when we suffer, when we experience tragedy and pain and that in his promise comes Resurrection and Eternal life not only for Him but for each of us who accept his message.

Last year at the Easter Vigil Mass in Rome, Pope Francis preached of our hope in Jesus. He reminded us that in Jesus we do not need to be afraid. The Pope's words last year have even more meaning this year having experienced another year of pain and suffering with COVID and now the terrible war in Ukraine. I encourage you to prayerfully read the following excerpts from Pope Francis. Discuss them with your loved ones, your friends and others. For even though in the past year we often had little to hope in, these thoughts of Pope Francis call us all to be people of hope.

Easter Thoughts from Pope Francis

The women thought they would find a body to anoint; instead they found an empty tomb.  They went to mourn the dead; instead they heard a proclamation of life. For this reason, the Gospel tells us, the women “were seized with trembling and amazement” (Mk 16:8); they were filled with trembling,  fear and amazement. Amazement. A fear mingled with joy that took their hearts by surprise when they saw the great stone before the tomb rolled away and inside a young man in a white robe.  Wonder at hearing the words: “Do not be afraid!  You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has risen” (v. 6).  And a message: “He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him” (v. 7).  May we too accept this message, the message of Easter. Let us go to Galilee, where the Risen Lord has gone ahead of us.  Yet what does it mean “to go to Galilee”?

 To go to Galilee means, to begin anew.  For the disciples it meant going back to the place where the Lord first sought them out and called them to follow him.  The place of their first encounter and the place of their first love.  From that moment on, leaving their nets behind, they followed Jesus, listening to his preaching and witnessing the miracles he performed.  Yet, though they were always with him, they did not fully understand him.  Frequently they misunderstood his words and in the face of the cross they abandoned him and fled.  Even so, the Risen Lord once more appears as the one who goes ahead of them to Galilee.  He precedes them.  He stands before them and constantly calls them to follow him.  He says to them: “Let us start over from where we began.  Let us begin anew.  I want you to be with me again, in spite of everything”.  In this Galilee, we learn to be amazed by the Lord’s infinite love, which opens new trails along the path of our defeats. This is how the Lord is: he creates new paths on the road of our defeats.  This is how he is; and he invites us to Galilee to do this.

And this is the message of Easter: Jesus, the Risen Lord, loves us without limits and is there at every moment of our lives.  Having made himself present in the heart of our world, he invites us to overcome barriers, banish prejudices and draw near to those around us every day in order to rediscover the grace of everyday life.  Let us recognize him here in our Galilees, in everyday life.  With him, life will change.  For beyond all defeats, evil and violence, beyond all suffering and death, the Risen One lives and guides history.

Dear sister, dear brother: if on this night you are experiencing an hour of darkness, a day that has not yet dawned, a light dimmed or a dream shattered, go, open your heart with amazement to the message of Easter: “Do not be afraid, he has risen!  He awaits you in Galilee”.  Your expectations will not remain unfulfilled, your tears will be dried, your fears will be replaced by hope.  For the Lord always goes ahead of you, he always walks before you.  And, with him, life always begins anew. (3 April 2021, St. Peter's, Vatican City)

On behalf of all the Franciscan Friars at St. Peters, the lay staff and all our volunteers, I wish to all of you and your family a blessed and holy Easter Season. I give thanks to so many of you who continue to support the ministry here at St. Peter's through your prayers, support and financial help. Without you we would not be able to be a prayerful oasis here in the Loop.

As Spring returns and more people are in the Loop on weekdays and weekends, we invite you to join us for Mass, confession or a place of quiet prayer in the midst of the busyness and noise of the Loop. Let us continue to pray for an end to the war in Ukraine, for continued protection from COVID, the safety of First Responders, medical workers, those in the service industry and for one another as we rejoice in the blessings of this Easter Season!

Fr. Michael