When you get right down to it, the message of Easter is one of hope. Jesus is victorious over sin and death and offers each of us the gift of new life. In the midst of every trouble, we can be sure of this: “whoever is begotten by God conquers the world” (1 Jn 5:4).
Let that sink in: We who have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection have conquered the world! Are you living as someone who has conquered the world through new life in Christ? Or does this holiest of weeks find you merely going through the motions?
Maybe this hasn’t been your best Lent. You may have started with great plans and somehow lost heart along the way. Or, like many others, perhaps you had no plan at all to enter into the spirit of prayer, penance, fasting and almsgiving. You’re not alone. It’s not too late — in fact, until we draw our last breath, it’s never too late to turn to God, repent of our sins and ask Him to heal and renew us. Lent, Holy Week and Easter are all about new beginnings.
Sacred Scripture offers myriad insights into hope in Christ, and one of the most compelling illustrations is the account of the woman who suffered from a hemorrhage for 12 long years. St. Mark tells us the woman had spent all her money on doctors but found no remedy. When she heard about Jesus, she said to herself, “if I but touch His clothes, I shall be cured” (Mk 5:28). And she was! Jesus tells her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
The Gospels are filled with examples of how Jesus poured out mercy and healing on those who turned to Him with hope. But the miracles didn’t cease when Jesus’ earthly life ended on the cross — they were only just beginning. The greatest miracle of all, His victory over sin and death, was about to take place. And He chose Mary Magdalene to be the first to witness this glorious triumph.
Think about that for a moment. Scripture tells us that Jesus had driven seven demons from the one who would come to be known as the Apostle to the Apostles. And while she’s been erroneously portrayed through the centuries as a prostitute or the woman caught in adultery, what we can know for sure is that Mary Magdalene was leading a life of serious sin before she encountered Jesus Christ. After she came to know Him, she no longer lived by the flesh but by the Spirit. Her way of life changed completely, and she walked with Jesus until the very end when He was nailed to the cross. Three days later, on that Sunday morning nearly 2,000 years ago, she was the first person to see Him risen from the dead, speak with Him and then bring the Good News to the Apostles. Talk about new beginnings!
Whatever kind of Lent we’ve had this year, no matter how far we’ve fallen or how egregious the error of our ways, St. Mary Magdalene’s life story ought to inspire hope in us. Right here and right now is the time to commit ourselves again to surrendering our lives to Jesus and following Him along the narrow way. The priests I’ve interviewed through the years tell me that one of their greatest joys is hearing confessions and seeing how repentant hearts are healed by God’s grace and mercy.
Christ is calling you and me out of our own tombs of sin and death and despair. He says that in Him we are conquerors of this world and its troubles. He’s pointing the way to the hope and joy and peace that those who trust in Him can experience. On Easter we proclaim, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”
Now let’s live it.