The Easter mystery is the most fundamental mystery of the Christian faith. Its proclamation is at the heart of the Church’s mission. This is why the First Reading at all the Masses of the Easter season is taken from the Acts of the Apostles. We not only hear the first proclamation of Easter faith, but trace the growth of the Church as its foundation is being laid by the first believers.
In today’s First Reading we hear that the gospel is beginning to be proclaimed and to be accepted outside of Jerusalem. The Church is becoming missionary. The fact that the gospel is being preached and accepted in Samaria means that the Church is beginning to grow outside Judaism. Recall the comment in the gospel story of the Samaritan woman at the well which we heard on the Third Sunday of Lent: “Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.” (John 4:9) We also hear of the conferral of the Holy Spirit upon people who have already been baptized, which the Church maintains today as the reason for the distinction between the sacraments of baptism and confirmation.
As optimistic and joyful as we should be in light of our Easter faith, Saint Peter, in our Second Reading, reminds us of the harsh reality that it is sometimes necessary to suffer for our faith. When we look at the first three centuries of Christianity, it is a wonder that the Church survived at all. Saint Peter exhorts us not to return insult for injury, “so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good…than for doing evil.” The rationale is to model our lives on Christ: “For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous.”
Forty years ago this Sunday, on Saturday, May 17, 1980, I was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Frederick Freking at the Cathedral in La Crosse, along with Monsignor David Kunz. The first assignment for Monsignor Kunz was here at St. Charles with Father Arnold Reuter. Monsignor Kunz’s path took him into education and school administration, including being principal of Newman High School in Wausau and rector of Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona. After two short pastorates, he has been serving as the Vicar for Clergy for Bishop Callahan. My path took me into diocesan service. After four years as associate pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in La Crosse, I was asked by Bishop John Paul to get a degree in canon law. After two years at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, I served in the Matrimonial Tribunal for two years, then as chancellor for nine years, and as moderator of the curia for four years. During those 15 years I also served as the bishop’s secretary and master of ceremonies. Then I served as pastor of Annunciation of the BVM Parish in Viroqua for two years followed by eight years as rector of the Cathedral in La Crosse. In 2011 Bishop Callahan asked me to return as moderator of the curia, where I spent the next five years before being appointed pastor here at St. Charles Borromeo and St. Peter parishes. We had been planning an open house for this Sunday afternoon, but restrictions due to Covid-19 forced that event to be cancelled. Instead I have been invited to a gathering of the priests in the Chippewa Falls Deanery to mark the occasion.
Pray the rosary this week for the priests and parishes of our diocese, and for four young men who are hoping to be ordained priests for our diocese in June! Pray also for good weather for the spring planting and growing season, including some needed rain. Pray for all who are experiencing turmoil in their lives for whatever reason, especially because of all the disruption caused by the current pandemic; and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.