Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Once again, the proclamation and celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection cuts through the difficulties of the past year with a light that dispels the darkness in our hearts.

A year ago, we celebrated Easter — even if it was by necessity virtually — just weeks after the official lockdown. Now we are together again to renew our hope in the Lord!

The Easter story of Mary of Magdala’s encounter with the risen Jesus opens up the power and the healing of this wondrous feast that we desperately need (John 20:11-16). Mary comes to the tomb filled with sorrow. She finds an empty tomb and feels an even greater loss of hope.

We arrive this Easter at the empty tomb like Mary, hearts burdened by grief for friends who have died, with anxiety, financial stress and the challenges of being distanced for so long from the ones we love. We are so tired of this pandemic that like Mary we are not even expecting a miracle as we look at the empty tomb.

Yet, in this low moment Jesus appears to Mary. She did not recognize Jesus initially because his appearance though the same was somehow more as well. But when he called her name, she knew him.

Jesus said that the sheep know the voice of the shepherd, and Mary knew the loving call of Jesus. Scripture says when she heard her name, she turned toward Jesus. In that move, she turned away from her grief and despair and faced the warm and restorative light of Christ’s Resurrection. She was awakened from the fog and sadness of grief to see clearly once again. Mary was empowered with a hope so deep that, where before she felt overwhelmed, now all seemed possible again.

The Resurrection of Jesus is not an event to be marveled at from afar, or simply a historical act to be believed as a tenet of faith. No, the power of Jesus’ Resurrection is an invitation to live in the unbelievable hope that he has overcome sin and death. He calls our name, and, if we answer with faith, we find the inspiration and hope to turn away from the old where all seems lost and embrace a new future where all good things seem possible.

We need the power of Christ’s Resurrection to lift us out of sadness. This hope is not a panacea protecting us from the work before us to heal, restore and inspire our broken world. But it is hope that will sustain our mission in difficult times, hope rooted in the crucified and risen Jesus, who is greater than any challenges we face.

St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata sums this up in a simple prayer: “Let nothing so fill you with sorrow that you forget the joy of Christ risen from the dead.”

May you hear this Easter the risen Jesus call your name. When you recognize his voice, turn to him and believe. Everything will change!

Christ is risen! He is risen Indeed!

Duca is bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge