The Easter message

  • April 3, 2009
{mosimage}According to a recent online survey in Britain, only 22 per cent of people could identify Easter as the day Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

That’s a startling number. And even taking into account the unscientific methodology that makes Internet surveying a suspect business, the finding evokes troubling questions.

Millions of Catholics worldwide will fill churches during Holy Week to celebrate the joy of Easter. But will all of them be rejoicing the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?

Is Easter for many Catholics becoming primarily a day a celebration of family, friends and the arrival of spring that includes an obligatory visit to a packed church to give thanks to God without acknowledging and deeply contemplating the fundamental article of faith: He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and on the third day rose again?

We pray that is not the case, but there is reason for concern.

As the world becomes more secular, Catholics seem to be becoming less catholic.

A Gallup poll of 3,022 people conducted over the past three years in the United States and published at the end of March revealed that, even among church-going Catholics, there is broad rejection of the Vatican teachings on many moral issues, including abortion, premarital sex, homosexual relations, stem-cell research, divorce, marriage and the death penalty.

To find some rebellion is unsurprising, but this study indicates overwhelming rejection by U.S. Catholics of many official church teachings.

On abortion, 24 per cent of church-going Catholics find it morally acceptable, rising to 40 per cent when all baptized Catholics are counted. Among churchgoers, the majority support divorce (63 per cent,) stem-cell research (53 per cent), premarital sex (53 per cent) and capital punishment (52 per cent). There is also broad moral acceptance of  parenthood outside of marriage (48 per cent) and homosexual relations (44 per cent).

One conclusion from all this is that the sway of secularism can be more persuasive than the teaching of the Catholic Church. And that is worth contemplating at Easter. Increasingly, secular celebrations are like static interference disrupting our reverential observance of Christ’s death and our joyous celebration of His resurrection. Many people strain to hear the message.

Yet, that message is all around us. It is particularly evident in the hearts and faces of the many hundreds of new Catholics who, having completed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, will receive the Holy Eucharist for the first time on Easter weekend. Concluding months of discernment, they will arrive at Easter Mass to proclaim the fundamental article of the Catholic faith: I believe.

Our Easter calling is to shut out the noise so we too can hear that message of faith, redemption and hope, and experience a truly Happy Easter.

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