Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Happy Easter to you! Our Lord Jesus, the fullness of life and love, conquers the worst of sin and death and carries us with him over death to eternal life. Today is the beginning of all the rest there is: let us rejoice!
First of all, I want to thank you for coming to Mass this Easter day. I know it must seem strange for some of you gathering for Easter in the Expo Center—that is, if you weren’t here ten years ago when we attempted Easter Sunday at the church for the last time! Imagine: you can only have one Vigil, and we see about 7,500-8,000 people at the three Masses on Easter. Everyone would need to come, and get in and out of the parking lot 11 or 12 times on Easter morning! And, by the way, everyone likes the 10:30 Mass!
I was talking about this last week and was telling someone who had never been to our Easter Masses at “Saint Expo” how much fun it was to celebrate Mass there. They stopped, and looked at me strangely. Can Mass be fun? Well, maybe I haven’t always had the greatest of word choices, but I was trying to express something maybe
with a word that doesn’t really exist.
Mass at Expo is remarkable. Listen to the sound of 3,500 people singing. Just look around and get a sense of how profound is the Body of Christ in Fredericksburg. So present. It is uncommon. It is also a whole lot of fun to celebrate it with you.
I’ll never forget, I had been here at Saint Mary only a short time and someone sent me a not-sonice email about how I had to stop smiling when I was distributing Eucharist at Mass! I mean, I wasn’t being goofy or anything. Still, I can’t imagine anything that could make us happier. Yet for them it was somehow diminishing the solemnity of the moment. But what other emotion could be more right? Isn’t it true? Somewhere inside us we have been convinced that being reverent isn’t something you really, down deep enjoy… there must be something wrong. It’s like if the music is a little quicker and brighter, back in the back of our minds we could think that it is somehow less sacred. Is it possible that there is no other day in which we would be more joyful—in our whole lives—than today? The day when you and I, members of the Body of Christ, celebrate the resurrection of the Body of Christ.
Really, at every Mass—but especially at Easter—we should be singing our loudest, like it might be the last time we get to sing praise. It doesn’t make any sense at all to hold back. And it always sounds so beautiful, because it is the voice of the Body of Christ singing to the Father.
At Easter Masses when we renew our baptismal promises: Do you believe…? The “I DO”” should take the roof off of Saint Expo. Because there is nothing more important to be said at that moment, or any moment of our whole life. I say this sometimes at baptisms: “Say it like you mean it!”
It’s true, sometimes our thoughts are elsewhere. Maybe we don’t feel like singing, or maybe we would like a different song. As one of our former music directors told me one time (not David!) when I told them I really didn’t like a particular song and would prefer we not use it, I was told, “Well, isn’t it a good thing that it’s not all about you?!” No one had ever told me that before. I learned a lesson, point taken. (It might have been delivered a bit more respectfully, but point taken.) When we participate, it is not I who live, it is Christ who lives in me—in a most perfect way when we gather in Jesus’ name and pray, and celebrate. It fulfills us, and the by-product is our joy.
Maybe people just need permission. I give it. t is okay to be so filled with joy today because f the gift of mercy and new life and salvation bought about by Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection: you can sing like mad. You may have ears. You may become absolutely lost in the love of God and discover something new about ourselves and our parish family. That we are a people called through the Resurrection of Jesus to be people who celebrate life for God and for one another. And celebrate it with every ounce of our gratitude and love.
And there is no one who is excluded from this invitation to discover this remarkable, profound, uncommon presence—both of God in our lives, but also our life in God. It is where we come together to be most completely who we are, undeserving sinners though we probably remain, to learn to forgive by being forgiven, how to love
by coming to know one another and how to serve by our being near him. Let this joy overflow, and transform all the days to come as we live it.
God bless you.