Denver, Colo., April 2019/ (CNA) - I’ve been married for 13 Easters now. I’ve been a dad for seven of those.
And every year, Easter sneaks up on our family. It shouldn’t. Lent is a long and penitential season, and the fair warning the Church gives us that Easter is coming. But a few weeks into Lent, it becomes normal- the sacrifices and penances become part of our routine- and I begin to forget that Easter is coming.
And then, it’s the Triduum.
Then it’s Good Friday, and we’re kneeling in the Church, and processing forward to kiss the cross.
Then it’s Holy Saturday, and some years we’re putting the kids in pajamas to let them sleep in the pews during Easter Vigil.
Then it’s Easter, and we’re celebrating with our family, and cooking a roast, and drinking champagne.
And every year, I find myself wondering if I’ve led my family well through Lent. Every year, I see the ways in which I might have invited my wife more often to prayer. Every year, I ask if I’ve taught the kids enough about Jesus and his sacrifice, if I’ve opened the Scripture often enough in our home.
Every year, I conclude I haven’t done enough. I haven’t really lived the Lent I should have, I decide. I haven’t really lived for Christ.
But all of that is folly.
We’re called, of course, to order our lives and homes and families to Jesus Christ. We’re called to be his disciples. We’re called to place him above all things.
But Easter reminds us that we’re also called to let him- and him alone- accomplish the transformation of our lives.
Not one of us can conquer death. Not one of us can atone for sin. Not one of us can transform a heart, ordering it to the unreserved love of God and neighbor.
Only he can do that.
We can put ourselves in his presence. We can offer ourselves to him. We can try to follow the examples of the saints. We can try to put the sacraments at the center of our lives.
But after that, we need to trust him. Easter tells us that we become saints through the work that he, and his grace, do in us, and through us, and for us. We are participants, but he is the source of life.
“We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death,” St. Paul tells the Romans, “so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”
Our newness of life comes through him. And it takes time to be fully manifested. And we have to trust.
Pope Francis has rightly pointed out a kind of Pelagianism among many practicing Catholics today. A sense that we can do it ourselves: that if we manage to carry the burden of moral perfection, and apostolic life, and evangelical zeal, that we might get ourselves to heaven.
But we won’t, and we can’t. That’s not sufficient. The doors to heaven are open to us because he loved us enough to be scourged at a pillar, to hang on a cross, to be buried, and to conquer sin and death.
And in baptism, he makes us a part of his life, death, and resurrection.
The evil one wants to make us think we can do it alone. And when we fail, he leads us to despair. But an empty tomb will always be beyond our own powers and abilities.
This Easter, I’ll give thanks to the Lord for the ways I’ve grown closer to him this Lent. I’ll ask him to help me follow him more closely. I’ll repent of my sins, and confess them. I’ll continue to walk with him on the lifelong journey to holiness.
This Easter, I’ll try to remember that alone, I can’t be good enough, strong enough, or powerful enough to be free from my own sins, or from my impending death.
And I’ll celebrate that, because of what he did for me, I don’t have to be.