Bishop McKnight calls the faithful to tend to Christ’s body through charitable, merciful action


CLICK HERE to read the full text of Bishop McKnight’s pastoral letter, “Shaping our Future Together: Parishes on Mission Together as Communities of the Beatitudes.”

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The Lord who conquered death by dying and rising cements his reign with mercy, peace and reconciliation.

So should it be for all who follow him and hope to inherit his gift of eternal life.

“All of our past sins against God and one another have been nailed to the cross, so now is the time for us to practice the mercy we have received,” proclaimed Bishop W. Shawn McKnight in his homily at the Easter Vigil in the Cathedral of St. Joseph.

“This Easter, I pray that you and your families may find your own ways to be agents of Christ’s mercy, to help your domestic church and your parish to become a more gentle community where the Beatitudes are lived and embraced,” he stated.

He said the Easter Vigil, celebrated on the holiest night of the year, is the kernel of the entire liturgical year.

“All that has come before — beginning with Advent and Christmas — and all that flows afterward, with the Easter Season, the celebration of Pentecost, and the rest of Ordinary Time — the entire liturgical year centers on this night of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

The Beatitudes, an integral part of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, include a litany of blessings: Blessed are the poor in spirit ... those who mourn ... those who are meek ... those who hunger and thirst for righteousness ... those who are merciful ... those who are clean of heart ... the peacemakers ... those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness ... and those who endure insults falsely because of Jesus.

Bishop McKnight made the Beatitudes the basis for the diocese’s new, three-year pastoral plan and the concurrent pastoral plans for the diocese’s five geographical groupings of parishes, known as deaneries.

He promulgated the new pastoral plans during Holy Week in a pastoral letter titled, “Shaping Our Future Together: Parishes On Mission Together as Communities of the Beatitudes.”

Bishop McKnight began the Easter Vigil at dusk on Holy Saturday, concurrently with priests in parishes throughout the diocese.

Father Stephen Jones, rector of the Cathedral of St. Joseph and pastor of Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish; Father Paul Clark, diocesan vocation director, director of seminarians and chaplain of Helias Catholic High School; Father Cesar Anicama; and (retired) Father Donald Antweiler concelebrated the Mass.

It was the culmination of the Church’s communal observance of Holy Week and the 40-day period of penitential preparation.

Symbols of fire, light, water, oil, bread and wine were highlighted in a Liturgy filled with some of the Church’s oldest and richest traditions and rituals.

The bishop baptized members of the elect and confirmed and gave First Holy Communion to the candidates for full communion at Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish, as did priests in parishes throughout the diocese

He blessed the Easter Candle, symbol of the resurrected Christ, which will be used for Liturgies in the Cathedral throughout the upcoming year.

In his homily, the bishop told of how pilgrims from all over the world travel to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to visit the place where Jesus was buried after his death, and rose up on the first Easter Sunday.

Near the main entrance, pilgrims kneel down and anoint and kiss the stone upon which Jesus’s lifeless body was anointed and prepared for burial.

“These devotional people are expressing outwardly their inward desire to tend to the body of the Lord today,” the bishop noted.

These pilgrims follow in the footsteps of the woman from Bethany who anointed Jesus’s head with expensive oil shortly before his arrest and execution, as well as the women named in Mark’s Gospel as being at the tomb of Jesus. They were willing to risk ridicule and persecution by others in order to honor and tend to his body.

“It is interesting that Mark uses these figures of pious women to highlight the care and concern for the body of the Lord that all Christians should imitate,” the bishop said.

Although extremely worthwhile, it is not necessary to visit the Holy Land in order to share such care and reverence for Jesus’s crucified, buried and risen body.

“We can show our piety and devotion in Eucharistic adoration, as well as taking seriously the personal act of receiving Holy Communion with proper preparation, reverence and prayers of thanksgiving,” said Bishop McKnight.

Those life-changing acts of piety reach their full expression when put into concrete acts of mercy.

“Our sacramental expressions, as important as they are, do not replace our obligations as Christians to be agents of mercy by tending to the body of the Lord that still suffers and is in need of anointing here among us,” the bishop stated.

The Bible records Jesus repeatedly identifying himself with the poor and the outcast, with sinners and those who mourn.

Accordingly, “we have the opportunity to do as the holy women did before (Jesus’s) Passion and after his resurrection whenever we tend to the lowly, the outcasts, the impoverished, the sick and neglected and the poor in spirit,” said Bishop McKnight.

He noted that one of the priorities of the new pastoral plan draws attention to the Church’s mission to be a center of charity and a sanctuary of mercy by becoming a community of Beatitudes.

“Each one of us here tonight carries spiritual wounds in need of healing,” he noted. “Each one of us is in need of redemption; we all need the mercy of the Father. And we all need a compassionate Church.”

Although the fullness of resurrected life will only come at the end of time in the general resurrection of the dead, “the light of God’s mercy is given to us through the preaching of Christ’s Gospel, in the celebration of the Sacraments, and in the communal life of the Church, where we support and tend each other,” he said.

“Our lives are different because of the mercy we have experienced in the Church!” he stated. “Tonight, we are brought from slavery to sin and the shadow of death, to walk upright in the new life of God’s light of mercy with our fellow brothers and sisters in Baptism.”