“Our soul waits for the Lord, he is our help and shield. For in him our hearts rejoice; in his holy name we trust. May your mercy, Lord, be upon us; as we put our hope in you.”
— Psalm 33:20-22
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Earlier this month, St. Mary Church in Melrose suffered severe damage from a fire — an event that has caused much sadness among parishioners and concern about the future. But the response of the parish and the Melrose-area community from the very first moments of the tragedy offers a lesson we can all take to heart this Easter season.
On the day of the fire, parishioners and community members delivered donated food and other provisions to the first responders. A week later, Sacred Heart School in Freeport invited students and staff from St. Mary School for a prayer service and lunch. Members of St. John Church in Meire Grove have welcomed their fellow cluster members for Masses there during this difficult time.
As people continue to mourn, many have said what we all know and what the above examples illustrate: A church building is important, but it’s really the people who are the Church. And it is the Church — with Christ as our example and the Holy Spirit to strengthen us — that ministers to all, providing hope and healing in dark times when loss and pain can make us lose sight of hope.
During the Easter triduum, we experience again how hope is at the center of our Christian faith. We walk with Christ in his suffering on Good Friday. But Jesus’ resurrection on Easter demonstrates his victory over sin and death — that, in the words of Pope Francis, “love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom.”
Particularly in this Year of Mercy, we are called to be instruments of God’s love and mercy. We live in a world where many people desperately need the hope that Christ brings: those impacted by fires and other natural disasters; people with illnesses, addictions and lack of adequate medical care; refugees without a place to call home; immigrants in need of welcome; survivors of sexual abuse and their families; those living in fear of terrorism and other violence; those struggling with family and job challenges.
The risen Christ wants us to be heralds of hope in our communities, our nation and the world. We draw that hope from many sources: from the Paschal Mystery we celebrate during the Easter triduum as well as at every Sunday Mass, from the other sacraments, from those we have been accompanying in our parishes on their journey to full membership in the Church at the Easter Vigil, and from fellow Christians who model Christ’s mercy by their words and actions.
May the hope of Jesus’ resurrection, and his unending love and mercy, bring you peace and joy this Easter season. And may you share it generously with all those you meet.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Donald J. Kettler