Easter Greetings from the Superior General

Dear brothers of the Congregation and the Passionist Family,

A happy and blessed Easter in our Crucified and Resurrected Lord from
myself and all the members of the General Council and the whole
community here at Saints John and Paul!
May the Passion of Jesus which we will be living through liturgically
during these days of Holy Week, and as it did with our holy Founder,
fill our hearts and minds with a deep sense of grief and sorrowful
love: indeed the Paschal Mystery, as we well know, lies at the very
center of our baptismal calling and of our vocation as Passionists,
both Reli-gious and Lay.

As we celebrate the various liturgical rites of these days, with the
many facts we already know and are accustomed to, we may well discover
new insights, even year after year. As we immerse ourselves in them,
with Jesus ever at our side, they may well provide material for
meditation and prayer and have an effect on our daily lives. We may
recognize these in the attitudes and actions of the various
personalities who form part of the Passion story of Jesus, with their
weaknesses and reticence and in the obstinate opposition of the
Sanhedrim; we may be left aghast and bewildered at Judas’ desperate
betrayal of Jesus and then sigh with relief at Peter’s tears of bitter
remorse and the forgiveness he begged for and was granted.

Perhaps we’ll be moved by Mary’s strong silence at the foot of the
Cross, her mater-nal heart torn to shreds. We may experience a
multitude of feelings and  reflections, per-haps leading to a
decision to change our lives, to remove ourselves from the center of
our own existence as we contemplate Jesus on the Cross. He 
showed no concern with preserving himself; rather, he placed others as
the objectives of his own interests and love.

So let’s take the plunge into the Passion of Jesus and attempt to
re-live it in our own lives, in the choices and decisions we make every
day, in our community relationships one with another and, if lay
people, in our family lives. Perhaps we’ll want to allow his blood to
wash over and purify us. “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover
with you,” Jesus tells his disciples and he repeats it again to us at
this Easter of 2011.

The Last Supper with the Eucharist, Jesus’ washing of his disciples’
feet and his  dec-laration that one of them was to betray him,
all form part of the path leading to  his sweating of blood in
the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus, Son of God and son of man by virtue of
his Incarnation, prays and beseeches his Father to spare him the
chalice of suffering and martyrdom which he must soon undergo. He will
be arrested and rejected by his own people. “If he were not a criminal,
we would not have handed him over to you,” will be their arrogant
answer to Pilate, acting as witnesses to themselves, as if they were
saying, “Our bringing him to you is in itself a guarantee of his guilt,
for only we are just and correct.”

“I found him guilty of no capital crime” Pilate says to the crowd. Weak
man that he is, he nevertheless has Jesus scourged even while convinced
of his innocense. “I gave my back to those who beat me,” Isaiah had
prophesied. Pilate will place him again before the crowd after the
scourging, with a crown of thorns on his head. “Behold the man!” as if
he wanted to say, hoping they’d show a little compassion, 
“What are you scared of? Look at what he has been reduced to!”

Thus was fulfilled what Isaiah had prophesized centuries back, “You are
my ser-vant…Even as many were amazed at him, so marred was his look
beyond that that of man, and his appearance beyond that of mortals…”
This is a final attempt by Pilate to move the people to pity, but their
cry resounds ever louder, “Away with him! Crucify him!” Finally Pilate
bows to their wish, – for political reason only – and hands Jesus over
to be crucified.

Jesus will go up to Mount Calvary bearing his cross on his shoulders as
if he were bearing the sins of all of us: “He has taken on himself our
sins,” he has carried us on his shoulders, a Samaritan and victim
himself, healing the wounds of our souls with the oint-ment of his
Blood. Once on Calvary he is relieved of the wood he is carrying and
they cru-cify him; he is lifted up on the cross, between two criminals
who have crucified with him. The message: he was just one more
malefactor between another two. Only one of the two criminals who were
crucified with him will recognize him as the Son of God and a king:
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Such faith went
beyond the blood, beyond the nails, beyond the outrage. “He saved
others… let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in
him!” The repentant criminal has no need for Jesus to descend from the
cross; he recognizes him hanging there like himself and dying. He will
join his faith to that of Mary the mother of Jesus, to that of John and
Mary Magdalene, to that of the Centurion who was moved to confess,
“Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Nevertheless Jesus’ Passion isn’t over with the outpouring of his
blood: the utter solitude and separation from his Father tears at him
much more than do the nails: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken
me?” He experiences and suffers this abandonment by his Father so that
we might return, reunited as the People of God.

Finally it is over, he has fulfilled everything: “Father, into your
hands I commend my spirit” and he breathes his last. There was darkness
over the earth. Afterwards, as a grain of wheat which falls to the
ground, they placed him in a tomb and closed it with a large stone.

In vain the guard and all the soldiers, for life and love will
persevere, the grain of wheat which was dead will sprout. It is Easter!
Christ has resurrected! Palm Sunday with the Hosannas to the son of
David now leads us to the Resurrection with the angel’s an-nouncement
at the entrance to the tomb, “He is not here, for he has been raised
just as he said,” and “Why do you seek the living one among the dead?”

“Lord!” Mary Magdalene will recognize him; “The Lord has truly been
raised and has appeared to Simon!” “Were not our hearts burning (within
us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”
the two disciples commented to one another as they returned from Emmaus
to Jerusalem.

The resurrection of Jesus is our certitude that a new life is possible,
for  ourselves and for the Congregation, for our communities
and for our lay families. The very process of Restructuring should be
illuminated by the bright light of the empty tomb and the mes-sage of
newness of life.

In all truth the resurrection of Jesus is an extraordinary event which
gives us a sense of security; for what can be more closed as to keep
everyone out than a tomb? That Good Friday evening all hope seemed
lost. Or so it seemed… Then everything became possible, even for our
own lives. It’s important we don’t lose faith and that we believe! For
he, Jesus, has preceded us and now walks with us

A HAPPY EASTER! Let us recognize the Risen Lord as he speaks to us
along the road of our present day and then witness to him with our
mutual charity and our solidarity with the poor and needy and with
those experiencing greatest difficulty in their lives and with society.

My fondest thoughts go out to our sick and frail religious and the
laity of our Pas-sionist Family who are living our Lord’s Passion in
their own flesh; also a word of special encouragement to those young
men who are starting out their lives with us: be faithful to your
calling, never turn back! Jesus has vanquished death… he has truly
Resurrected!

Fraternal greetings to our Passionist bishops, to our cloistered
Passionist nuns who accompany us with their prayers and penance, to all
the members of those Congregations affiliated with us who share in our
charism, and an affectionate memory and a prayer on the thirtieth
anniversary of the death of Isabella Caponio, a most passionate lay
member of our Passionist Family who will be celebrating her first
Easter in heaven with the resur-rected.

And I say it again, A HAPPY EASTER TO EVERYBODY!

Fr.Ottaviano D’Egidio, Superior General cp
Retreat of Saints John and Paul, April 17, 2011 
Palm Sunday