Today Catholic Christians celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus -Easter.
On behalf of the staff, faculty, and all the ministers of our parish, I wish you and those you love a very Happy and Holy Easter and Easter Season!
In Catholic Christianity, Easter is considered to be the most important of all feast days. In fact, the early Church Fathers considered it to be so important that they decided to change the Lord’s Day from the Sabbath (Saturday), to Sunday. So, in a sense, every Sunday is a celebration of Easter.
Easter, of course, commemorates Jesus’ rising from the tomb after his crucifixion and death. Without the Resurrection, Jesus would have gone down in history as just another person who got himself killed.
In the Easter story, Mary Magdalene and a woman that the Bible calls “the other Mary” came to the tomb where Jesus had been buried. What they found, however, was an angel who rolled back the stone at the entrance of the tomb to show them that Jesus was no longer there. The angel said, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples” (Matthew 28: 5-7).
Mary Magdalen and her friend, frightened but filled with joy, went and told the disciples the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. Many in the Church see Mary Magdalene, therefore, as the first missionary of the Church, taking the good news of Jesus to others.
For the next several weeks, we will be celebrating the Easter Season and will learn even more about Easter and its consequences from the Scripture.
Easter, however, is more than a historical and religious event. For Catholic Christians, it is also a time of renewal, of rebirth, a time to shed the negatives of our lives and replace them with positives. That is what we see in the amazing story of a man who lived in the Seventeenth Century. His name was Nicholas Herman, but for the ages, he is more commonly known as Brother Lawrence.
Nicholas was born around 1614 in the area of Lorraine in eastern France. Because his family was so poor, he joined the army as a teenager so that he could have guaranteed meals and a small stipend. He fought in the Thirty Years’ War until he was injured and had to leave.
After leaving the army, Nicholas served as a valet. However, in June of 1640, Nicholas joined the Discalced Carmelite priory in Paris and took the name, “Lawrence of the Resurrection.” He made his solemn profession of vows on August 14, 1642. In the Parisian priory, he spent the rest of his life.
For his first years in Religious Life, Brother Lawrence worked in the kitchen as a cook, but later in his life, he found himself repairing sandals of the friars of the community.
When he first received the job of cook, Brother Lawrence was not at all pleased. He thought this work was beneath him. But as he grew in the spiritual life, he found himself becoming more peaceful and more joyful. In fact, people began coming to the priory for counseling.
Brother Lawrence attributed his joy and peace to a very simple realization: he was always in the presence of God. Lawrence held that as long as he remembered that he was in God’s presence, he would be happy no matter what he was doing – cooking, fixing shoes, attending a party, visiting with friends, praying in chapel, or whatever.
From his letters and talks with the abbot of the priory, a short book was anonymously written about Brother Lawrence’s wisdom called, The Practice of the Presence of God. It became popular with Protestants and Catholics alike, and even Protestant leaders such as John Wesley recommended it to others. This book even today is considered a Catholic Christian classic.
On his deathbed, Brother Lawrence said to those around him, “I am not dying. I am just doing what I have been doing for the past forty years, and doing what I expect to be doing for all eternity!”
The friars surrounding him asked, “What is that?”
Lawrence replied, “I am worshipping the God I love!” Brother Lawrence died on February 12, 1691 – in the presence of God.
From Brother Lawrence and the Easter story, we can learn many things. Here are just two.
First, Easter is about new birth. It is a time to shake off the old and take on the new. It is a time to rejuvenate our spiritual lives. Perhaps it means getting out old ruts. Perhaps it means going back to school or reading new things. Perhaps it means taking up a hobby or becoming more generous with our time, talent, and/or treasure.
But second, remember that change takes time. We don’t go from zero to high-powered-mystic overnight. Though there have been instances in history where people have had an amazing instantaneous conversion – such as with St. Paul – most of us have to work at building a strong spiritual life day by day.
As we continue our life journeys this week, let’s look at our own lives. How are we going to shake up our spiritual lives this Easter Season?
And that is the good news I have for you on this Easter Sunday, 2018.
- Robert J. Morgan. “Practicing the Presence of God,” Real Stories for the Soul, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, 264-268.
- Wikipedia Contributors. “Brother Lawrence.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, 28 August 2017.