Bishop Michael Fisher’s Holy Week/Easter Message
March 25, 2021
My Dear Friends – Sisters and brothers in the Lord,
It’s my great privilege to enter this holiest week of our Christian life together with you as your pastor and shepherd. Although it’s been just a little over 2 months since I arrived in Buffalo, I’ve been so moved by the warm reception and expressions of support and friendship by so many during my travels across our Diocese. In every place, I have encountered tremendous commitment to the Faith that unites us – and utmost determination to be part of the renewal that is so needed and which together we are working to bring about.
The challenges that we are confronting do not ultimately define us. Past failings and the developments that have threatened to obscure the immense goodness that is accomplished each and every day by our active Faith and broad ministries are things that we must address with honesty, transparency and with a renewed commitment to accountability. This is my pledge to you. But as I have made clear wherever I go and with whomever I meet – the work of renewal is ultimately the work of us all. It is something that we will bring about because of our collective will – our shared talents and resources – and our resolve to reclaim the zeal for the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is summarized in this final week of our Lenten journey.
As we now prepare for the celebration of Palm Sunday – and in the coming days, the Triduum of the Lord’s Passion which culminates in our celebration of Christ’s Resurrection on Easter, we have the possibility to rediscover what it is that defines us as followers of Jesus Christ – Disciples like those first imperfect Disciples who left all they had to follow Him, only to discover that what they had signed-up for was far beyond anything they had imagined.
By now, the story of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, his last hours with his beloved Disciples, his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal by one of his own and his brutal crucifixion is a familiar one. But it’s a story that we must somehow discover and experience anew again and again – This great sacrifice by the One who bore the sins of us all – which defines us and the meaning and purpose of our lives. As Paul’s letter to the Phillipians recounts: “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Like Him, we are asked to empty ourselves – to abandon what we know and which provides us security – to follow Him to Calvary – and to die with Him so as to experience the rebirth that His
obedience and sacrifice makes possible
These cannot just be theological concepts. The Lord’s passion, death and Resurrection must give meaning here and now to who we are as baptized believers – and lead us to real change. They must inspire our thoughts, words and most importantly, our actions. The essence of this timeless story is that sin and death – sorrow and disappointment – are not the final verdict of our
lives. Because we choose to follow Him, our lives are interpreted through this defining gesture of God’s unconditional love – the gift and sacrifice of His only Son so that we might experience forgiveness and redemption once and for all time. And, yes, that we might then forgive as we’ve been forgiven.
“He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.”
It’s that simple, and yes, that awesome.
One of the most profound moments of our Easter celebration is when we welcome those new Disciples – our Catechumens – into our Family of Faith. I always believe that through their curiosity, their zeal to learn and understand the Faith that for many of us is something we’ve lived with our entire lives – offers us the possibility to renew our own. While for many of us, our parents
and godparents spoke for us at baptism and led us on the journey of Catholic faith at our earliest age, these men and women who come before us with open hearts and minds to publicly accept
Christ as their savior and to begin a their journey of discipleship remind us in a very explicit way of the power of the Gospel to change hearts and minds – to lead us in new and unanticipated
I ask that you join with me in welcoming these new sisters and brothers in our Catholic Faith. We must commit to supporting them and – by our own witness – validate their decision to express
their deepest yearnings for a life of meaning and purpose as Catholics. And so, to all of those who at the Easter Vigil will abandon themselves to the great Paschal Mystery and give assent to follow Christ, we welcome you with arms outstretched and with open hearts. In the same way that your testament of faith invigorates our own, may the shared faith that you experience in your parishes be a constant source of support and encouragement. Please share generously your talents and find ways to strengthen the life of your local faith community.
God Himself has called you to this moment and now leads you forward as members of our family – as new Disciples who have been called by Jesus just as he summoned those first Disciples.
My friends – sisters and brothers all – let us now together walk with the Lord to His final destiny – let us be with Him, stay with Him and abandon ourselves with Him to God’s all embracing and unconditional love. And let us claim the promise that His Resurrection offers us – forgiveness and the prospect of new birth – a new beginning. Into the Father’s hands let us now commend our
spirits as we await the sure fulfillment of His promise.
May the joy of the Easter Resurrection be with you and all those you love!