Biskupi Hrvatske biskupske konferencije/Foto: IKA
Easter Message from the Bishops of the Croatian Conference of Bishops Zagreb, April 7, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Risen Christ,
- As we enter Holy Week, we have begun to celebrate the mystery of the death of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the mystery of his powerlessness and earthly defeat, and his ascension to glory. At the moment of his death, the Lord addressed his Heavenly Father as follows: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46). Jesus’ devotion to the merciful Father provides us believers with a model and incentive. We particularly need such an attitude these days when our homeland and the whole world are afflicted with the spread of a disease that has largely halted the regularity of life and work, brought insecurity and disrupted the closeness of encounters and visits. Moreover, as bishops we sympathize with the Archdiocese of Zagreb, the people of Zagreb and the vicinity, who experienced a devastating earthquake that increased their trials, further distressed them, damaged their homes and churches, and convulsed their souls and emotions.
As a community of Christ’s faithful who experience the closeness of the Lord in encounters and fellowship with our neighbors, during these days of trial we sorely miss the liturgical celebrations in which we receive the fullness of the Eucharistic gift. Although we are connected via the media to the places where Mass is celebrated, we miss the breadth of the manifestation of faith with other believers. However, this leads us to deeper reflection and a basis for certain hope because when a person suffers, Christ suffers with him. He became incarnate and endured suffering so that we would not remain alone or lack his gracious help under any circumstances..
- Holy Week confronts us with the signs and experiences of want and emptiness. In the emptiness of life, faith enables us to discover the presence of the Living One. This is the experience of Easter morning that the angel revealed to the women: “He is not here, for he has risen!” Therefore, in all human emptiness, the news resounds that fullness has been given to us through the Risen Lord, because man is not created for emptiness but for fullness.
On the Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord, the Church prays: “O God, on this day, through your Only Begotten Son, you have conquered death and unlocked for us the path to eternity.” This is the joyful news that we proclaim and witness. Eternal life begins for us when we unite ourselves with the Son of God, when we accept God, who gives himself for us and who surrendered himself for us. Therefore, even the trials we are enduring are illuminated by the light of Easter, which remains our new strength and consolation.
- Therefore, brothers and sisters, we urge you not to stop praying and to believe in the power of prayer. Instructed by biblical models of prayer and the examples of our ancestors, we pray simply and sincerely, like the psalmist whose cries and prayers are balm for our souls! The Lord’s words resound like the Easter victory: “Because he loves me, I will rescue him. I will protect him because he acknowledges my name. He will call on me and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and honor him. I will show him my salvation” (Ps 91:114‒16). From this certainty comes our humble cry: “Lord, see our suffering and stop the onslaught of evil. Free us from our overwhelming trials! Most of all, let us know and do your will!” It is extremely significant and fruitful that we have been united in prayer these past weeks via the media and other technical means. This has eased our loneliness and sense of remoteness, while increasing and strengthening our faith in the Lord.
With special prayer and fraternal closeness, we follow those who, through their service, are testifying to the genuine love of man: physicians, nurses, government officials, police, army, media professionals, firefighters, sales personnel, volunteers and all others who have demonstrated their willingness to risk their live and health to combat the dangerous virus and devastating earthquake. We will continue to include them in our prayers, with faithful gratitude that motivates us to do everything so that no one feels the absence of our love.
- Brothers and sisters, while we reflect upon our suffering and trials of the past several weeks, we are comforted by faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who overcame all evil and even conquered death itself. Again this year, we are grateful to the Lord for his closeness to us at Easter. After the resurrection, he shows his wounds to the disciples in order to rouse them from despondency and despair. These are wounds that are visible and painful but shine upon the face of the Church, which is his mysterious body. Jesus does not reveal heavenly glory to those who did not believe but rather the transformed signs of his torment. With his resurrection, he indicates a new dimension of the transfiguration of the created world.
In the Easter atmosphere, we send each other greetings and good wishes. Following the drama and silence of Good Friday, the church bells will toll again and proclaim the news that Mary Magdalene “early in the morning, while still dark” (Mk 16:9) ran to tell the apostle Peter. May the resurrected Lord strengthen us all in faith and belief that he is now “at the right hand of God and intercedes for us” (Rom 8:35). Empowered by this faith, despite all our afflictions, we will stand firm in the Lord” (Phil 4:1). The Resurrected Lord is our hope and our strength. He is the light in the history of human darkness. He is the center and meaning of everything.
In this belief, to all the faithful of our (arch)dioceses, as well as those outside the homeland and all who are reached by our words, we wish a happy Easter. May it be full of hope, joy and every heavenly blessing!
The Bishops of the Croatian Conference of Bishops
Holy Week 2020