Bishop Hundt's Easter Message

On Holy Saturday night in churches throughout the world Catholics gather together and wait in the dark. They wait in the dark for the most joyous celebration of the liturgical year to begin with a spark, a spark jumping out into the dark of the night to ignite the fire that will then be blessed and used to light the new Paschal candle.

This Pascal candle, ritually decorated and blessed, is then held up for all to see: one small flame of fire shimmering and fluttering in a sea of darkness while a voice loudly sings out in reverence, triumph and joy: “Christ our Light” to which with equal reverence, triumph and joy, all present respond “Thanks be to God.”

The flame of that candle, representing Jesus Christ and his triumph over sin and death, is then passed out to all the assembled so that each of them may light their own small personal candle from it. Slowly this “flame of faith” is shared, passed from one person to another, the sharing not diminishing the original flame in any way but rather multiplying it by the sharing of it.

Eventually everyone present is holding a lighted candle. The Church is no longer dark, but rather is bathed in the warm soft glow of this multitude of little flames that, while extending a gentle illumination to the whole building, especially light up the individual faces of the faithful that hold them, each face unique and different but all alike in their expressions of wonder, joy and, for that moment, peace.

The Paschal Candle has now reached the sanctuary of the Church and as the silent, light enshrouded congregation looks on in expectation, this candle is again raised high and again the chant rings forth and back, “Christ our Light!” - “Thanks be to God!”

This Service of Light with which we begin the Easter Vigil is magnificent in its symbolism and beauty. It is also a wonderful symbol of how the light of God’s love brings hope, joy and light to all those who will open themselves to His guidance and care.

In the gospel passage proclaimed at Masses this year on Easter Sunday (John 20: 1-18) we hear how Peter and John and Mary Magdalene are weighed down by the darkness of their despair over the crucifixion and death of Jesus. His empty tomb sparks the beginning of a renewed light of faith in them and then Mary’s encounter with the Risen Lord and his calling her by name begins the process of passing on to them, and through them, passing on to all believers of every time and age “Christ our Light.”

Jesus gives to Mary Magdalene not only the light of his personal presence and love, but also the instruction to share that light and love with others. Mary Magdalene, radiant in God’s love, shouts to the Apostles, “I have seen the Lord!” In so doing she sets the example for them, and for Christians of every age and time, of our call to embrace and to be joyful messengers of the Good News of our Savior’s triumph over sin and death.

Please join with me in praying that the light of Christ will shine in the heart of each one of us this Easter, that the light of His love will overcome any sadness, fear or discouragement that afflicts us and in turn will fill us with an irresistible desire to, like Mary Magdalene, be joyful messengers of the Good News to everyone we meet.

+ Peter J. Hundt