April 11, 2020  |  Msgr. Stuart Swetland |  Today's Readings

“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” -Ezekiel 36:26

Tonight, we celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin, Satan, and death—the three ancient enemies of humankind. “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55). The tomb is empty; he has risen as he said. The angels announce, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised” (Luke 24:1-12; Mathew 28:1-10).

Jesus was triumphant over death. Our God is the creator and defender of life. God did not create death (cf. Wisdom 1:13) and does not delight in the death of anyone, even the wicked (cf. Ez 18:23; Ez 33-4).

The Church proclaims this good news, which is truly Evangelium Vitae, the Gospel of Life, the good news of life triumphant over death. This is why death should never be seen as a solution to our problems.

Recently, a federal court in Arizona upheld the right to religious liberty for four brave souls with the faith-based group No More Deaths, who fulfilled Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25 by giving food and drink to those crossing the desert of Southern Arizona. The federal government prosecuted them because their efforts violated a rule about food and drink in a national park or reserve, and they were interfering with a government policy of “deterrence by death” of undocumented immigrants who crossed the border in these areas. 

Amazingly, our government argued that death was and should be a solution and deterrence to those who might have committed the misdemeanor offense of illegal entry. Judge Rosemary Márquez condemned the government’s border enforcement strategy of deterrence by death as “profoundly disturbing” and “gruesome logic.”   

Many others today embrace death as a “solution” to their problems: abortion for a problem pregnancy, euthanasia for the problem of the suffering of a sick or elderly person, and the death penalty for the problem of a serious offender.  

Pontius Pilate and the High Priest Caiaphas thought death could end the “problem” posed by Jesus of Nazareth. But they were wrong.  

Death is never a solution to our problems. Our God is the God of life and love, calling us to share abundantly in his mercy and grace. The Easter candle and fire lit tonight signify the “light of Christ’’ which illumines our minds and enflames our hearts to think and choose like unto Jesus. 

As Ezekiel the prophet proclaimed, our “stony hearts” now have been transformed by God’s grace into new hearts with a new spirit—the spirit of life (cf. Ezekiel 36, Seventh Reading). 

May we always embrace and live our lives to the full (cf. John 10:10) radiating the new light of Christ as lights unto the nations.

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