By Bishop Edward J. Burns
Southeast Alaska Catholic newspaper – May 2014
Blessings to you this Easter season. During this season we focus on the good news of salvation won for us by Jesus’ death on the cross and we celebrate the joy of new life as we share in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Let us never lose sight of these great gifts – salvation in Christ and the hope it brings us, even in the midst of suffering and sorrow.
As I write this column I am affected by sad news on a couple of different fronts. First of all, this past week I learned of the tragic deaths of two Alaskan State Troopers in the line of duty. Such an event is reminiscent of the unfortunate deaths of the two police officers in Hoonah a couple of years ago. These men offered their lives in public service for the common good and for peace in our communities. All of us ache as we think of their loved ones and how they will face the future trying to cope with their loss. As a community of believers we offer our prayers for these fallen officers and troopers and for their families.
Secondly, I learned while getting on a flight this morning that my uncle, Albert Milono, died at the age of 96. He married my Dad’s older sister, Margaret Mary Burns. Our families spent many Christmases together and visiting with him on my trips back home was always a part of my itinerary. Just recently I had the chance to celebrate the sacraments and pray with him on a trip to the East Coast. He served in World War II and treasured going to Mass at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph. My cousin told me that as he was drifting in and out of consciousness he would have flashbacks of the war. l have a picture of General Douglas MacArthur pinning an award to his chest. He lived a full life and I am blessed that he was a part of mine.
In the course of the communications with my cousin during the boarding process on my flight to Sitka I received a text message that a friend of mine died unexpectedly. The family member who texted me was pleading for prayers and indicated that they were all distraught.
None of us are exempt from facing tragedy, evil, suffering or death. But facing these moments with the sure and certain hope of the resurrection offers a path for healing and comfort. Christ’s promise to the Apostles that He would rise from the dead was fulfilled. He also told His disciples that they would share in His resurrection. He fulfilled His promise of forgiveness by washing away our sins in His own blood. God demonstrated His love for us by sending His only Son to suffer and die – so that through our moments of suffering and death we might have life with Him. That is to say, God never intended that we suffer and die, but when we do, He fills those moments with His love and presence. In our moments of suffering we are able to be one with Him in His love for us and we are able to be one with Christ and His Blessed Mother as we share in the suffering they experienced on Calvary.
My heart and prayers go out for people who do not believe in the eternal salvation promised by Christ – those who have no hope in the face of tragedy, evil, suffering, and death. For some, the good news of forgiveness and life after death seems too good to be true, and so, they fail to believe.
But for us who believe, our hope in Christ is foundational for our lives. We know that we don’t have all the answers about Christ’s paschal mystery – that is why we call it faith. If we had all the answers, we’d call it science. Our faith in Jesus Christ is that he fulfilled his promise to the early Apostles – and continued to fulfill His promises as He bestowed upon them the gifts of the Holy Spirit as we see in their experience of Pentecost.
As I write this article on my flight to Sitka, I’m mindful of the purpose of this trip – to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation upon 22 young people at St. Gregory Parish. As you know, Confirmation celebrates the descent of the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon those who are confirmed. Confirmation is another opportunity to participate in the promises of Christ. I pray that the young confirmandi will always know the presence of The Lord in their lives – whether in the bestowal of His gifts or in the midst of pain and sorrow.
This message of hope is not for us to keep to ourselves; we are called to share the Good News, especially to those in need. During this Easter season and throughout our lives, let us proclaim what we have come to believe and know… tragedy, evil, suffering and death will not have the last word.