Understanding Our Church

A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith

Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and always, will lead us

Published: June 8, 2002

By Father James P. West

The Catholic Church has recently completed its celebration of the resurrection of our Lord in the Easter season. During this sacred time, we were carried into the very heart of the mysteries of our salvation, and we found comfort and peace while there.

It is necessary for us to recall the circumstances in which the Apostles found themselves as they approached the resurrection. They had spent three years with the Lord Jesus. They had seen him at work: teaching, healing, reconciling and forgiving. They had witnessed the miracles of the Lord: the multiplication of food, the calming of raging storms, the walking on water, the restorations to physical health. They had promoted him before others and defended him against his detractors. For three years he had been the very center of their very lives.

Suddenly their whole world seemed to come crashing down around them. The Lord was betrayed by the Apostle Judas Iscariot. The appointed leader of the Twelve, St. Peter, denied before the world that he even knew the Lord. All other Apostles except for St. John fled from the Lord when he needed them most.

“Can you not stay awake with me for even one hour?” Christ had asked them shortly before he was arrested. By their actions they answered a resounding “No!” In their cowardice they ran, thereby abrogating for a time the sacred dignity and responsibility once given to them. They would have to listen for reports from others concerning the fate of the one they had called their Lord; they would not even be there to see for themselves what would happen to him.

Huddled together, as if against a storm, they stood behind locked doors. No doubt they argued and anguished over many things. “What have we one?” “What do we do now?” Never did it occur to them simply to wait for the Lord to fulfill his promise to rise from the dead. In their minds Christ’s end had come, and they were now in danger of suffering the same fate that had been his.

In the midst of such fear and panic, a joyful message arrived: Christ was alive once more! When this was confirmed for them by the empty tomb and by his resurrection appearances, their world was once again made new.

Our Lord’s resurrection lies at the heart of Catholic faith. It is the cause of hope for the Church in every age and in any struggle, and oh how we need to remember that today. In our age, Christ and his “little ones” have suffered criminal assault and betrayal at the hands of immoral priests.

After the present scandal of seemingly unending reports of priestly abuse, faithful Catholics must look to a resurrection, which is sure to come. That new resurrection may take surprising and unexpected forms. As abusive priests are removed, Christ will call others to replace them who are totally committed to him. Young men must listen now as never before for that priestly call, as God heals the gaping wound in his Mystical Body.

The priesthood has been weakened by the sins of a few among us, but we will see a renewed vigor in it. Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever will take his bride the Church by the hand and lead us through the darkness of this present moment into the brightness of a new beginning. So it has always been. So it will be again.

Father James P. West is pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock.