The Church’s Youthfulness Renewed
An article by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna published on The Malta Independent on Sunday on Easter Sunday
Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ has as many fans as it has detractors. It was a controversial film that was seen by millions but that also created huge reactions. I remember Franco Zeffirelli criticising how violent the film was. But one thing that struck me in the film is a scene where Jesus is given the cross to carry, and a close-up of the face of Jesus follows with his words: “Behold I am making all things new”.
This phrase from Scripture derives from the prophecy of Isaiah and is repeated in the Book of Revelation. The scriptwriter made a very interesting and important decision in putting this line in the passion narrative because if we had to approach the mystery of the death and the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth through the perspective of faith we would realise that it is an important event that changes everything.
The Church celebrates the Easter Triduum every year because it constantly needs renewal. During Holy Week all the important symbols of the Church are renewed.
On Holy Thursday in the morning, the Bishop blesses new oils that will strengthen the catechumens in their choice to be Christians, he blesses the oil that will fortify the sick in their struggle to unite their sufferings to Jesus Christ and receive spiritual and physical healing, and he consecrates chrism – the oil that is used to bless and consecrate priests, bishops and also churches and altars. The chrism is also used in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation as a sign of dedication to the Lord. At the same liturgy, priests and bishops renew their priestly vows.
In the evening of Maundy Thursday, the Church renews its commitment to the commandment of love which Jesus calls his new commandment. In the ritual of the washing of the feet the community refreshes its commitment to be a community of service, of communion, of reconciliation.
On Good Friday, as we commemorate the passion and death of Jesus, we read the prophecy of Isaiah that announces the servant of the Lord who takes on himself the failures, the disillusionments, the sins of human kind, and becomes a redeemer. The sacrifice of Jesus is renewed in this narrative as it is also renewed on our streets in various parishes where the passion narrative is re-enacted with great devotion.
But the liturgy that rejuvenates the Church is the extraordinary liturgy of the Easter Vigil. In the Easter Vigil, the prophecy “Behold I will make everything new” is celebrated by the kindling of the new fire that becomes the light of Christ, the blessing of the water with which the catechumens become Christians and new members are embraced by the believing community. The community itself renews its baptismal vows and the Eucharist is celebrated as the fulfilment of the promises of the risen Lord.
In the Easter Vigil, the liturgy of the Fire, the liturgy of the Word, the liturgy of the blessing of the Water, and the Eucharist, symbolise the Church finding its youth again. And so Easter is in actual fact the celebration of the perennial youth of the Church.
We notice that young people have an extraordinary energy of hope, of compassion and solidarity, and these are aspects that we admire and appreciate. Our hope is that the Church also will be a beacon that gives not only light to humanity but also contribute to the empowerment of mankind, through a calling to service for the common good, to reconciliation between peoples and to a true spirit of compassion especially for the vulnerable and for the weakest members of our society.
As we rejoice at the news of the resurrection of the Lord and his victory over death, we realise that we need to translate this joy into a constant commitment to bring hope and joy to so many people. As the Church enjoys this newfound youthfulness, her heart moves towards all our young people inviting them to participate in the joy of the Gospel, the joy of the Good News that the last word in human history will not be death or destruction but life and fraternal love.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend another invitation to young people, to join me on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the land blessed by Jesus’ presence, between the 2nd and 10th July 2018. I hope that this will be an opportunity to share and rediscover our faith as we visit the places touched by Jesus’ and also by so many different cultures that enrich the Holy Land.
This article was published today, 1st April 2018, Easter Sunday, on The Malta Indepedent on Sunday. Link: www.independent.com.mt