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Easter Message 2021 By The Most Reverend Dr. Gabriel Mendy, C.S.Sp. Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Banjul, The Gambia.

Apr 6, 2021, 12:43 PM

THE NEW LIFE OF EASTER OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD HAS GAINED FOR US

We never celebrated Holy Week, Easter Triduum, and Easter Sunday last year as we normally do because of the Covid – 19 pandemic in The Gambia and around the world. This pandemic is still dangerous and deadly so it is vital for us to observe and implement the Covid – 19 Measures and Regulations of the Diocese of Banjul, in order to, prevent ourselves and others from infection. Our collective and concerted efforts in mitigating its infection and deadly effects have greatly helped us towards the end of last year and this year to resume our celebrations of the sacraments, feasts days, and solemnities in our parish churches. We are now fortunate to celebrate the special and major events of our faith and salvation in Christ Jesus during Holy Week, Easter Triduum, and Easter Sunday. So we have reason to be grateful and dependent on God for this solemn moment of grace he offered us to celebrate and reenact even in a measured manner the mysteries of our faith. Now that God has enabled us to gather again, we have a cause to rejoice and be joyful in our celebration of the Solemnity of Easter. For, Easter is not only the greatest feast of the Catholic Church; it is also the central event that proved that Jesus is our Lord of life and our Saviour from sin and death. We should, therefore, believe and trust in him because he has gained for us new and eternal life as our crucified and risen Lord.

Whenever we celebrate Easter, we often celebrate it as an event that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on the third day. So we associate Easter with the original resurrection of Jesus when he was raised to life by God’s right hand after he was crucified, died, and was buried. Our celebration and understanding of Easter is limited, in that sense, to his resurrection and post-resurrection appearances in which he manifested himself to his disciples as their risen Lord. His resurrection at Easter merely becomes a historical event in accordance with the prophesies in Scripture and his own predictions to his disciples in Lk. 9:22, 43-45 and 18:31-34 that he will suffer, be rejected, killed, and on the third day be raised again to life. This sense and meaning of Christ’s resurrection is obviously important and fundamental because it enables us, like the Apostles in Jn. 20:9, “to understand and believe the teaching of the Scriptures, that he must rise from the dead.” But there is another aspect and meaning of the resurrection of Jesus that is equally important for us that we need to bear in mind and appreciate whenever we celebrate the feast of Easter. Jesus also gained new and eternal life for us when he rose from the dead on the third day. So our celebration of his resurrection at Easter is also a celebration of our resurrection to new and eternal life in him. He fully affirmed this fact even before his death and resurrection but we are not too conscious of the new life of Easter that our crucified and risen Lord has gained for us.

On different occasions in the Gospels, Jesus clearly informed his disciples about his suffering, death, and resurrection and his power to grant them new life in him. He told them in Jn. 10:10-11 that he came so that they may have life and have it abundantly and he identified himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. In this passage, Jesus presented himself as the one who offers and sacrifices his life for his disciples so that they will have life in abundance and live. His life-giving death and resurrection was clearly highlighted in this case because he categorically said he will lay down his life and take it up again. His disciples will then have life in abundance through his sacrificial death and resurrection. Another example of Jesus’ allusion to his resurrection and his power to offer his disciples new life is Jn. 11:23-26. He assured Martha, in this passage, that his brother Lazarus will rise again. But when Martha presumed that Jesus was simply referring to the resurrection on the last day, he clearly told her that, “he is the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in him, though he dies, he will live, and whoever lives and believes in him will never die.” Again, this was a clear indication to his disciples that as the resurrected Lord of life, he has the power to offer new life to all who believe in him even the dead. He also told his disciples in Jn. 14:18-19 that, “the world will not see him anymore but they will see him because he lives so they too will live.” So his living presence and resurrection was what offered his disciples new and eternal life in him.

These statements of Jesus clearly indicate that his resurrection is ultimately the source of our new life in him. He triumphed over sin and death when he rose from the dead and brought us to new life in him. We gained new life in the risen Christ; a new and eternal life that frees us from fear and all forms of corruption and deception. Our celebration of the resurrection of our risen Lord should also be a celebration of our new life in him that we are required now to live and cherish. As St. Paul explained in 1Cor.15:22,“in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive … in their proper order … Then comes the end when he delivers the Kingdom to God the Father after destroying every authority and power and subjecting his enemies and the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” He affirmed Christ’s resurrection and its real and salvific effects in the lives of all believers. If Christ was not raised, he said, our preaching of the resurrection to new life is in vain and if the dead are not raised then Christ is not also raised and if Christ is not raised then our faith is futile. So our new life, faith in the resurrection of the dead, and preaching are all based on the fact that Christ is risen from the dead and has brought us to new and eternal life in him. We are, therefore, alive in him. This is what is illustrated in the celebration of baptism in the Catholic Church. We were baptized in his death that is symbolized by the waters of the baptismal font and raised to life again in him so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s right hand, we too might live a new life. (Rom.6:4).  

Our identity, interests, values, and relationship with each other should now correspond to our new life that our crucified and risen Christ has gained for us. Otherwise, there will be a contradiction between what we celebrate at Easter, on the one hand, and our lifestyle and desires on the other. For the resurrection of Christ from the dead and our rising with him to new life at baptism demands total change of lifestyle and rejection of everything that is false and contrary to the Gospel values of Christ and his victory over sin and death. Our conduct and actions, as well as, our outlook and expectations in life should completely be influenced and guided by our celebration of Christ’s resurrection and our new life in him. This is what St. Paul invites and encourages us to do in Col. 3:1-4. He said, “since we have been brought back to true life with Christ, we must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is sitting at God’s right hand. Let our thoughts be on heavenly and not on earthly things because we have died, and now the life we have is hidden with our risen Christ in God.” If we truly believe in Christ’s resurrection and his gift of new and eternal life for us, we should no longer seek and set our hearts on the goods of this world. Our focus and major concern should be to live in heaven forever with our risen Lord who delivered us from sin and death and the power of evil.

Our new life of Easter was freely obtained for us by our crucified and risen Lord through his suffering, death, and resurrection. He suffered, died, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day. We should not, therefore, consider his resurrection alone as we celebrate our new life in him. His suffering, death, and resurrection should also be noted because it is through his crucifixion, death on the cross, and resurrection that Jesus obtained for us a new and eternal life. So we should always identify Jesus not only as our risen Lord but our crucified and risen Lord who has brought us to new life in him. This is the true Catholic doctrinal understanding of the identity, mission, and Paschal Mystery of Christ we recall and celebrate throughout the Easter Season and the Church’s liturgical celebrations in the year. It is also the guiding and motivating principle of our life, vocation, and faith in God as believers and followers of Christ. We should equally be willing to suffer, die to our human desires, in order to, rise with Christ to new life. Otherwise, we will not attain new life in Christ if we are not ready to share or participate in his suffering and death. We should imitate and experience the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus so that we too will become a source of inspiration and hope to others following his example.

On this day we celebrate our crucified and risen Lord’s victory over sin and death and his gift of new life to us, let us renew our faith and hope in his power to save us from all forms of evil. We should no longer be afraid of death and the forces of evil because we have gained new and eternal life through his death and resurrection on Easter Sunday. Each and every one of us is, therefore, delivered and freed to live a new life that looks forward with hope towards our eternal union with our crucified and risen Lord in his heavenly Kingdom. As the Bishop of the Diocese of Banjul, I strongly appeal to you to cherish and safeguard this gift of new life we gained at Easter and celebrate its meaning for us in the right spirit and in accordance with the Covid – 19 Measures and Regulations of our Diocese. On that note, I wish all Christian believers and followers of Christ, our fellow Muslims, and believers of other faiths, and all Gambians at home and abroad a very peaceful, joyful, uplifting, and meaningful Easter celebration. May you experience in your lives and homes the power, peace, blessings, new life and salvation of our crucified and risen Lord. Amen!

Your Servant in Christ,

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

Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Banjul, The Gambia.

         

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