Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!
Brothers and Sisters,
A very blessed Easter! Look inside the tomb with Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John, and recognize that the greatest news the world has ever heard is astonishingly true: He is not there! He is risen, as he said! Let your hearts be gripped with this incredible proclamation: he has conquered sin and death. Our Lord has descended into the very hell of all that would seek to enslave us and has triumphantly risen from those places, bringing us life and life abundantly.
We are witnesses of a reality that should cause us to tremble in awe and wonder; Christ has risen, and he wants to extend the grace of this resurrection to all. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.” (1 Cor 15:20, 22)
I write you this letter to introduce the Encounter the Risen Jesus resource. Over the past eighteen months, as I have prayed on our desire to set up the archdiocese for a time of apostolic mission, I have been convicted that Jesus’ remarks to the apostles at the Last Supper in John 14-17 are foundational Scripture passages for how we think about mission. I created this resource as a way of praying with these chapters, and a few others, because I want all the faithful to allow the Word of God to shape our minds and hearts. This guide is intended to help with that by inviting all to focus twenty minutes of prayer every day for a week on each of these chapters, with additional reflections on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24), the gift of the Eucharist (John 6), and the Ascension/Pentecost (Acts 1-2).
This resource becomes even more timely as I and the bishops of Colorado have prayerfully discerned that Pentecost, May 23, is the right time to restore the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days for the faithful who lack a serious reason which would prevent them from attending in person. Providentially, just as we are being led back to this invitation from God to encounter him at least weekly in the Mass, my prayer had also been moved to specifically highlight the essential role the Eucharist plays in the life and mission of the Church in this guide. Let us also pray for those who may have become distanced from the Church during this pandemic, and how the Holy Spirit might use us to help bring them home.
Many of you already joined me in our three invitations this Lent: to encounter the lens of the Gospel, to pray and fast for renewal in the Archdiocese of Denver, and to form our consciences, and I thank you for your participation. I consider this resource to be the follow-up, “part two” of my pastoral note, Our Apostolic Moment (archden.org/our-apostolic-moment), that issued those invitations. As I wrote there, I believe the critical question in front of us right now is, “How do we build an archdiocesan culture that is set up for and focused on a time of apostolic mission?” I sense deeply that the whole people of God in northern Colorado are being sent on mission to compellingly proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Mission is a calling in every baptized Catholic’s life; none of us are excused from this preeminent priority of the Church. It is why she exists. Before strategic deliberations or practical considerations, mission is first about a spiritual conversion, a new way of seeing. Without the new vision this fresh encounter brings, no going out will be possible. Mission begins first with our encounter with God, an intimate relationship and friendship with Jesus Christ. From this relationship springs a profound realization that the deepest truth of who we are, our very identity, is that we are first beloved sons and daughters of the Father. From this place of awareness of our own “beloved-ness,” we are then capable of joyfully going on mission.
Some have used a helpful acronym to remember this truth: R.I.M. – Relationship, Identity, Mission. This progression is the driving vision behind this guide. It is meant to assist you in coming to a more intimate relationship with Christ this Easter season so that you are confirmed in your identity in the Father and are prepared to go on mission to engage the minds and hearts of every soul that resides in northern Colorado.
Here is how I would like you to use your guide and what I invite you to this Easter season. As your archbishop, I ask that you take twenty minutes each day, either during your regular prayer time or at an additional time, and open your hearts to what God is saying to you in Scripture. If you have not been in the habit of taking a daily time for personal prayer, this would be an excellent opportunity to begin! You may join me in doing this by focusing on passages of the New Testament that I believe contain wisdom that God wants to speak to our local Church at this time. To assist us, we will be utilizing the ancient method of lectio divina, which offers a simple structure for praying with Scripture. Lectio will help each of us hear the Lord address us personally through praying with the Word of God.
I am recommending only one chapter a week because I want you to pace yourselves. The repetition of praying with only one chapter each day will give space for us to really “chew” on each passage, pondering the insights contained therein and letting them change our minds and hearts. Lectio divina is not so much about “getting somewhere.” It is about being quiet to go deeper into the heart of Christ; it is a way of listening closely to the still, small voice of God present in Scripture.
Thank you for journeying with me on this Easter season through this Encounter the Risen Jesus. I will be praying that he reveals himself to you in a new and life-changing way.
God bless you this Easter season,
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
Visit archden.org/easter2021 to follow along with the Encounter the Risen Jesus guide over the next seven weeks.