First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

The Risen Friend in Our Midst
By FATHER JOHN J. LYNCH

We have heard how hunger and thirst abound in our world. And there are different kinds of hunger and thirst. The Lord said, “Happy are they who hunger and thirst for what is right.” We also know that there are huge numbers of people who hunger for love—to have friends. Dale Carnegie wrote “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and sold millions of copies.

My Easter wish is that all who read this reflection will remember—today, this week, all their lives—this truth: You have a Friend.

Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, 2,000 years ago knew that this man was their friend. Their friend is our friend here and now—because of Easter.

If the whips, the nails, the thirst, the tomb of Good Friday had ended it, Jesus would be a historical figure like President Lincoln. But two days later Easter came, with a new beginning. Christ lives. This means that Easter is our new beginning: “I am with you,” he tells his friends in Mark’s Gospel, “always, until the world ends.”

We are on a par with Peter and Mary Magdalene. He walked and talked with them. He walks and talks with us. In the sacraments he enriches us with his Holy Spirit, God’s life, the gift that surpassing the objects we can see, a gift that opens the door to having our own Easter.

In many churches, at the Vigil, adults receive his life and his Spirit in baptism. But keep in mind: This glorious event happens only after they undergo a form of engagement, months in which they grow to understand him and his teachings and accept him as the Main Person in their lives. At the Vigil Mass, the Church offers an opportunity for all present to renew their baptismal promises, to declare that they choose him as their Savior, greatest Friend and Guide for living.

Saying “I do” to the celebrant’s questions is not enough. Words are just a start.

How precious friends are; I have been reminded of that over the past year and a half as several friends I prized have left this world. How urgent it is that we meet with our friends as often as we can. Even more, we must keep on meeting with Jesus: in prayer each day; above all here, each Sunday and the six holy days. 

In the first part of Mass through his Word he gives us a twofold message: his burning love for us, and what he expects of us. In the second part of Mass he offers strength, nourishment for our souls. He did this for people in the year 29: healing their bodies, drying their tears, cleansing their souls of sin. In 2017 he touches the bodies and strengthens the souls of his friends in the Eucharist.

And, as proof his friendship extends to all, he has left us the gift of another sacrament, reconciliation or confession, as a sign that we’re always welcome back, regardless of what we have done or deliberately left out

No two lives are alike. The 20th century saw countless men and women who lived their friendship with Christ in vastly different ways, people like Dorothy Day, Maximilian Kolbe, St. Teresa of the Missionaries of Charity, St. John Paul II or a recovered alcoholic named Matt Talbot. Some of them wandered far away before they came home to their Friend. But home they came, to know the joy of his forgiveness.

Your life is different as well. You may know poverty or wealth, have a host of friends or a handful, be healthy or chronically ill, enjoy fame or live in obscurity.

Against the background of eternity, none of this matters. What does matter is that the Easter message comes to life in your heart. Christ, God’s Son and your Brother, lives. Here, today. He is your Friend. As you say “I do” to the promises, and sing the Great Amen at the end of the Eucharistic prayer, I hope you will give those words this meaning: “Lord, you are my Friend. I am yours. And, from this moment on, my life, here each Sunday and holy day, out there each weekday, will prove it.” 

If this is what you mean, if you live as a friend of your crucified and victorious Lord, your Easter is happy. It will be forever.

Father Lynch serves as administrator of Immaculate Conception parish in Woodbourne. Ordained a priest of the archdiocese in 1965, he holds a doctorate in Philosophy in Classics and a master’s in Divinity.

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