- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by Bishop Paul S. Loverde at St. Timothy's Catholic Church in Chantilly.

Easter comes early this year. It does not seem so long ago that we were all together celebrating Christmas. Christmas and Easter whether the time period separating them is long or short, they share a striking similarity and a decided difference.
At Christmas, the angel greeted the shepherds with the joyous words: "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord" [Luke 2:10]. And, on Easter morning, the angel of the Lord greeted the women saying, "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." [Matthew 28:5-7].
The difference is this: While the message of Christmas says, "Do not be afraid, because the Savior has come," the message of Easter says, "Do not be afraid, because the Savior has triumphed."
Today ought to be the most joyous day of the year for us, for today we celebrate the triumph of good over evil, hope over cynicism, generosity over selfishness, victory over defeat, and life over death. To be sure, our celebration is not one that eliminates every problem. Disappointment, discouragement, disillusionment, suffering and tragedy all remain. Look at what surrounds us: terrorist attacks, wars, abortion on demand, assisted suicide, scientific research that destroys a human embryo a human person to obtain its stem cells, human cloning initiatives, violence in our streets, loss of jobs, breakup of marriages, difficulties of old age, like loneliness and pain, and terminal illnesses, even sexual misconduct scandals in the church. Despite these problems, we can have hope, because today we celebrate good's triumph over evil. Today, we witness that suffering can be purifying and redemptive, and that the very things that seemed to overcome Jesus were overcome by him and turned by God into instruments of grace.
At Easter Vigil we saw the Easter candle dispel the darkness. We proclaimed "Christ our light" to announce that the crucified, yet Risen One, had conquered evil, sin and human death. The church has been experiencing a terrible darkness in these days, the darkness of sexual abuse and misconduct on the part of some of her priests and bishops, and the pain of victims. Christ is our light in this time. He leads us to apologize humbly and profoundly for past sinfulness, to follow our strict diocesan policy on sexual abuse and misconduct in the future, and to develop additional protocols in order to prevent harm to any member of the church.
We are an Easter people. For this reason, we are also an evangelizing people. In our second reading from I Corinthians, St. Paul reminds us, "Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?" We are called to be leaven in the world. We are called to bring Jesus and His gift of redemption to every person we meet. Pope John Paul II wrote: "A new millennium is opening before the church like a vast ocean upon which we shall venture, relying on the help of Christ…. At the beginning of this new century, our steps must quicken as we travel the highways of the world."
Today, let our steps quicken to bring the joyous news of salvation, of triumph and of freedom won for us by Jesus Christ to our world so much in need of hope. Through the prayer, penance and alms-giving of Lent, we are now renewed and transformed as were the followers of Jesus on that first Easter morning. Be not afraid to be remade and set free by Jesus Christ. Be not afraid to be the apostles and saints of this new millennium. Christ is victorious over sin and death. That is why we are an Easter people, and "Alleluia" is our song.

Next week: A sermon by the Rev. John Odean at Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Millersville, Md.

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