On Easter Sunday, Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. But it is important for Christians to understand that Easter Sunday is not the end of a journey – it is the beginning. This day ought to be a springboard for us to deepen our relationship with the Lord and transform our lives.
Easter is about a new life in Christ, both in this world and the next. Christians believe that Jesus, through his crucifixion, death and resurrection, redeemed us from our sins and earned for us eternal salvation. This belief, known as the redemption, is the essence of the Christian faith.
In “Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” Pope Saint John Paul II pointed out that the Christian belief in the redemption distinguishes Christianity from other monotheistic religions.
Given how central the redemption is to the Christian faith, we cannot as Christians merely recognize his resurrection on Easter and then proceed with our lives as usual. God’s immeasurable act of love cannot go unrequited – it demands a response from us.
Thus, the resurrection is a life-changing event that ought to permeate every day of our lives. This means that following Christ should always be our top priority, that we should seek to do his will above all else, and that every part of our lives ought to flow from our relationship with him.
When we give Christ a chance to work in our lives, he helps us with our daily challenges and relationships with others. Then, after we experience his love and concern for us, we in turn want to please him even more, which brings forth even more blessings in our lives.
This is the type of life that most people long for in their heart. Unfortunately, some do not pursue it because they fear that the demands of a Christian life, especially the precepts of the Catholic Church, will hinder their freedom and pursuit of happiness. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
True freedom does not consist of doing whatever we feel like doing, which actually enslaves us to our carnal desires and harms both ourselves and others. On the contrary, authentic freedom is achieved when the spirit of God dwells in us and we do what is right, which produces great peace and joy. St. Augustine, after spending much of his life chasing sensual gratification and worldly pleasures, eventually recognized Christ as the true source of happiness and wrote in “Confessions”: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
For this reason the discipline of the Catholic Church, both in its practices and teachings, is extremely liberating. The practices we initially perceive as demands eventually become enjoyments as our actions draw us away from ourselves and closer to Christ. Blessings begin to flow into our lives, providing encouragement and creating a happier, more fulfilled life. Suffering may still come, but we have divine strength and peace in the midst of any predicament.
Some may find the Catholic Church’s teachings too challenging. But God does not expect us to do it on our own, nor would that even be possible. We need the gift of divine grace, which comes first and foremost from prayer. It is impossible to be close to someone with whom you don’t communicate.
We may pray and receive grace by attending Mass, reading or listening to the Scriptures, praying the rosary and participating in Eucharistic Adoration. We also receive grace when we make the right moral decision, help someone in need or perform any act of love toward God or another person.
As we do these things, grace begins to accomplish its work in us, and we find ourselves becoming transformed into the person we were meant to be. Inevitably, we will fall short from time to time. When this happens, it is important to not get discouraged. Perseverance enables us to continue to receive grace, bringing us closer and closer to perfection.
When we strive to join ourselves to Christ, however imperfectly, the joy of his resurrection is with us all the time. We are strengthened through his power and grace to rise with him each day and overcome all that weighs us down. Best of all, we can look forward to rising at the end of our earthly journey and sharing in his glory for all eternity.
Zach Krajacic, a Lancaster resident, is vice president at 101.7 FM The Station of the Cross Catholic Radio Network, based in Williamsville. He oversees eight stations throughout the northeastern United States as well as iCatholicRadio, a free app heard throughout the world on mobile devices.