EASTER MESSAGE 2019 FROM THE MOST REVEREND DR. GABRIEL MENDY BISHOP OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH NEW LIFE IN THE RISEN CHRIST OUR LORD

Thursday, April 18, 2019

God has raised our Lord and savior Jesus Christ from the dead and conquered sin and death forever, let us rejoice and be glad now and forever Alleluia. On this joyful feast of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday, I am pleased to wish you my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and all Gambians at home and abroad the peace, freedom, victory, and new life the Risen Christ has gained for us. For forty days and nights, we prayed, fasted, abstained, offered gifts to the poor, and experienced Christ’s sacrifice, suffering, and death. We should now rise with him at Easter and experience his new and everlasting life in us. His resurrection and victory over evil and the power of sin and death should inspire and motivate us to rise beyond our limitations, weakness, and fears and celebrate the feast of Easter with joy, hope, and gratitude to God.

  Jesus was crucified to death and was buried for three days in the tomb before he rose from the dead in his glorified body. His resurrection was not, therefore, a resuscitation or revival of his earthly human life. He was raised from the dead in a glorified body not with a mortal life again but with an immortal and divine life. In the third Preface of Easter that is said at Mass, Christ is referred to as “victim who dies no more, the Lamb once slain who lives forever.” The new life of the risen Christ is, in that case, radiant, incorruptible, spiritual, holy, and eternal. We attained the same life of the risen Christ at our baptism into his death and resurrection when we received his life giving Spirit as members of his Body, the Church. As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead, we should not only be conscious of his gift of new life to us. We should also realize that the life of the risen Christ should influence, form, and renew us as believers and children of God. What we, therefore, need to do during this Season of Easter and throughout our lives is to conduct ourselves in accordance with our new life in the risen Christ.

For us to live the life of the risen Christ in our relationship with God and our fellow human beings, we are advised by St. Paul in Rom. 6:6 to crucify our old selves so that our sinful bodies will be destroyed and no longer be enslaved to sin. There should be remarkable changes in our conduct, actions, values, and vision in life following the resurrection of Christ from the dead instead of maintaining our former habits, deeds, and aspirations in life. We cannot participate in the life of the risen Christ and still continue doing and seeking the things we cherished in the past. If we do, our celebration of Easter will be meaningless and contradictory for us no matter how we feel within us during this season of light, joy, and peace. As a result of our new life in the risen Christ, we should, rather, in the words of St. Paul “consider ourselves as dead to sin and alive for God in Christ Jesus.” Whatever we say and do and whatever we are involved in from now onwards must be wholeheartedly devoted to God in Christ Jesus. This is what it means to be alive in the risen Christ or to participate in the life of our risen Lord.

The feast of Easter is truly a cause of great joy for all believers and followers of Christ because it represents the victory of goodness over sin and evil, life over death, light over darkness, faith over fear, and hope over despair. When Christ rose from the dead and brought us new life, he equally destroyed the power and influence of sin and death, darkness and fear in the world. There is no more an ongoing and unending conflict between life and death, light and darkness, hope and desolation, goodness and corruption because God’s right hand ultimately triumphed in the end. We should not, therefore, allow ourselves to be overruled and intimidated by death, darkness, fear, and hopelessness again because we have gained new life in the risen Christ to overcome the forces of evil in the world. When we experience suffering, hardship, and disappointment in life, we should not lose sight of the victory and power the risen Christ has gained for us. As followers and believers of the risen Christ, we should always count on his power, deliverance, hope, and peace.

    In all the Scripture passages on the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday and his appearance in the next forty days, the evangelists emphasized two important things. They affirmed the fulfillment of the prophecies of Scripture and the task of proclaiming and bearing witness to the risen Christ. These two major points are very pronounced in the post-resurrection preaching and ministry of the Apostles and we should carefully take note of this as we celebrate the Octave and Season of Easter. The fulfillment of what was foretold about the Christ when he rose from the dead is clearly well established. But what is expected of us as followers and believers of the risen Christ is we should become active and faithful preachers and witnesses of his resurrection from the dead on the third day. Like St. Peter in Acts 10:39-42, we should also testify that “we are witnesses to his death and resurrection on the third day and he commanded us to preach that he is the one God ordained to judge the living and the dead.” We cannot encounter the risen Christ in the Eucharist we celebrate and experience his new life in us and then be passive and indifferent to his resurrection and authority as Lord, savior, and judge of the living and the dead. Each and every one of us should imitate the example of Mary Magdalene, the holy women, and Apostles who shared the good news of Christ’s resurrection with those in doubt. If we do, we will be counted among those Jesus said in Jn. 20:29 “happy are those who have not seen and yet believed.”

   As we celebrate this greatest feast and solemnity in the life and liturgy of the Catholic Church, we should bear in mind that the risen Christ lives and abides in our hearts, homes, communities, and nation. Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ has not only risen from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion, death, and burial, he is also present among us and accompanies us in our journey through life.  So we have an additional reason to count on his saving power and guidance even in our difficulties and struggles in life because he is alive and present among us. In accordance with tradition and the spirit of the feast of Easter, I take this opportunity to wish the priest, religious, the faithful, believers in Christ, and all Gambians at home and abroad a solemn, joyful, uplifting, and peaceful celebration of the resurrection of Christ from the dead.  May the risen Christ grant you and your families and friends his peace, love, freedom, and blessings in abundance. 

Your Servant in Christ,

+Most Rev. Dr. Gabriel Mendy, C.S.Sp.

Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Banjul, The Gambia