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Sunday: What Will Your Easter Message Be?

ResurrectionMaryMagdaleneEarly versions of the Gospel of Mark end with Mary Magdalene fleeing the scene of the empty tomb. Scholars disagree about what exactly is going on with these versions, but one theory is that this Gospel was written for early Christians who had their own experiences of the risen Christ.

I like that — one unmistakable message in the Easter Gospels is that Jesus is real, he really rose from the dead, and we should each  go out and have our own experience of the risen Jesus.

More than that, we have a further duty to share our own Easter message. In the second reading we hear St. Peter in Acts telling people what he believes about Jesus and why. Take it as a blueprint and make your own Easter message. Here are the steps.

First, reference real things your audience has experienced.

“You know what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached,” said Peter, “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.”

Great things have happened because of Christ in our own time. We shouldn’t be shy about claiming them. A non-Catholic businessman in Cleveland recently wrote a spirited defense of the Catholic Church. He said:

“The Catholic Church educates 2.6 million students every day, at cost to your Church of 10 billion dollars, and a savings on the other hand to the American taxpayer of 18 billion dollars. …  [T]he Catholic Church has a nonprofit hospital system of 637 hospitals which account for hospital treatment of 1 out of every 5 people not just Catholics in the United States today. …  I’ve been to many of your shelters and no one asks them if you are a Catholic, a Protestant or a Jew; just ‘come, be fed, here’s a sweater for you and a place to sleep at night’ at a cost to the Church of 2.3 billion dollars a year.”

Second, tell them the positive things you have seen Jesus do.

“He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him,” said Peter. “We are witnesses of all that he did.”

We have each had an experience of Jesus, but we aren’t always comfortable sharing it.

Did Jesus restore your hope? Did he expand you to be able to handle more things? Did he heal your relationship with your brother? Did he lift a load off your shoulders through his forgiveness? Did he help your sister through a terrible time in her life? Tell others. You are a witness to these things. Share them! And be armed with the research that shows how faith helps others.

Third, make them know that the resurrection is reasonable.

“They put him to death by hanging him on a tree,” said Peter. “This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

Even skeptics recognize that the Gospels tell a story that doesn’t sound made-up at all: People who make up a religion usually make themselves heroes in the process. The apostles look like bumbling cowards in the Gospels. Yet they tell the story of astounding encounters like Paul’s, and the historical record shows that many new Christians died for their belief in what they saw.

There are very good reasons to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Learn them and share them.

Fourth, tell them about God’s mercy.

“To him all the prophets bear witness,” says Peter, “that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

People instinctively knew that we will held account for how we conduct our lives. We know that our choices have hemmed us in. We know we will be judged. It is a great relief to learn that the judge of our souls is a lover of Mercy, who is just waiting for our “sorry” to give us his pardon — and the Divine Mercy message coming the Second Sunday of Easter is the perfect herald of that news.

So this Easter, make your own Easter message. Write it down. Practice it. You can start by watching this Catholics Come Home commercial that does all the things mentioned above. Pass it on.

The Gregorian Institute is Benedictine College’s initiative to promote Catholic identity in public life by equipping leaders (the Gregorian speech digest), training leaders (the Gregorian Fellows), defending the faith (the Memorare Army for Religious Freedom), and celebrating Catholic identity (the Catholic Hall of Fame).

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Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes is vice president of college relations at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of U.S. House Ways & Means Chairman Bill Archer and then spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. He writes weekly for Catholic Vote, the National Catholic Register and Aleteia. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Catholic Digest. He lives in Atchison, Kansas, with his wife, April, and nine children.