The first fruits of Easter, of the Resurrection, are to be found in an experience of communion. We are told in the Acts of the Apostles how faith in Christ risen from the dead bound together His early followers even to the point where they held all their possessions in common. For those alive with resurrection faith, communion in that faith and indeed solidarity with all sisters and brothers constitute a natural response.
How wonderful it was to experience this communion in the risen Christ at our recent Chrism Mass. Of course the Eucharist is always the sign and the source of our communion, but on that particular evening, communion was very much like the air we breathe.
The beautiful congregational singing was a magnificent expression of many priests and people crying out with a single voice to praise their God in Christ. The very sign of all the priests gathered together with their Bishops tells us that above all, the Church is communion in Christ. The prolonged ovation of our faithful people for their good priests was another outstanding manifestation of oneness and prayerful support. One really cannot beat the authentic experience of communion.
Communion with Universal Church
Later in May, with roughly 30 Bishops from the states of Indiana and Illinois in addition to our own, I will be leaving for the quinquennial visit required of Bishops to pray at the tombs of Peter and Paul and report to the Holy See. Again this will be another wonderful experience of communion in Christ, that communion which is the Universal Church, under the leadership of the successor of the apostle Peter, Pope John Paul II.
It is our communion with the See of Rome and the successor of Peter that makes us Catholic, that makes our communion visible, tangible, and very real. It is not a matter of some passing affection for brothers and sisters in the Church nor is it simply some kind of a mind trip. The Holy Father is the official teacher and pastor for all of us and our communion with him in what we preach and teach validates what we say. The days in Rome provide the opportunity for many conversations with Vatican officials culminating with a private if brief meeting with our Holy Father himself - as I said another wonderful experience of communion to be anticipated.
We live in a 'Crossfire' culture
Our culture is not really a culture of communion but rather one of conflict and disagreement. The most common presentation seen on television is that of two individuals in complete disagreement with each other, trying to shout each other down as they become more and more entrenched in their own conflicting positions. Inevitably the host of the program concludes by cutting both parties off with a comment such as, "Well, we certainly won't resolve this matter today, and we've run out of time." Meanwhile everyone's blood pressure has run up a few notches in the process of taking all of this in.
Our culture is certainly a "Crossfire" culture. We are fed daily by the mass media with polling data which by and large shows us how divided we are and how much we disagree. Our Church is an institution with a divine founder but very human members and this conflict mentality and approach, I'm afraid, has seeped deeply into the fiber of our Church in the United States. It seems sometimes that the conflicts, disagreements, and divisions are overwhelming.
Does Easter make a difference?
And so once again we have to ask does Easter really make a difference? I mentioned in an earlier column before Easter the beautiful proclamation of the early Church, "Let us call even those who hate us our sisters and brothers for Christ the Almighty is risen!" That's the difference that Easter can and will make if that mystery lives in your hearts and mine by faith.
Conflict is not the fruit of the resurrection - communion is. Through these days of Easter, fortified by a holy Lent, let us grow in our determination to live out the communion to which we are called, singing with one voice, "Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours Almighty Father forever and ever. Amen."
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen! Let us find our communion in Him! Praised be Jesus Christ!
Thank you for reading this. God bless you and may the blessings of this Easter season continue to be with you and yours in great abundance.
Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of Madison, wishes to announce the following:
The Reverend James Bartylla has been appointed Diocesan Director of Vocations effective immediately. For the time being, Father Bartylla will continue in his current pastoral assignments at St. Ignatius Parish, Mount Horeb, and St. Mary Parish, Pine Bluff.
Msgr. Paul J. Swain