Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Peace, joy, and Apostolic Blessing
Good Friday has come and gone in the liturgical cycle of the Church, yet in our secular experience, it seems as though we are still in the midst of it. The COVID 19 pandemic continues, climate change is bringing us to the brink of ecological ruin, our political systems have reached a level of dysfunction unparalleled in our nation’s history, and the people of Ukraine endure unspeakable horrors as they are mercilessly invaded and attacked by Russian forces. No, Good Friday is not over, at least not the Good Friday our world is currently experiencing.
It is easy to become discouraged, depressed, despondent even in the face of this current reality. Our world is in crisis, and it is right for us to be concerned about it and to question what any of us can do to stop this downward spiral. It’s tempting to say, “Well, I’m not someone who has any political or social clout. I’m not a mover and a shaker; I’m just an average person. What influence do I have, what difference can I make? What resources do I have that could possibly make a difference?”
As the life of our brother Jesus shows us, we do indeed have a powerful resource at our disposal, one which all too often we overlook. Good Friday was followed by Easter Sunday, and the world was given proof that love, the perfect Love Christ embodied, overcomes all, even the most evil of human behaviors. Every time we worship and come to table with him, we experience that Divine Love. We eat his body and drink his blood and as we do, we are transformed, for as the Apostle Paul tells us, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”. (Galatians 2:20) And since Christ is love, divine Love lives within us. What greater resource is there than that?
But what value is there in having a resource, what value is there in being a resource, if that resource is never drawn on, is never applied, and instead is allowed to simply sit there idle, unused? The understanding that we have been incorporated into the very perfect Love of Christ must be more than simply a comforting theological nicety or a high-sounding ideal; it must become a lived reality if it is to have any meaning at all. The perfect Love that is Christ calls us to reflection, to a change of heart, and ultimately to action.
There are many ways to be Love in action and not all involve political or social activism, though they certainly are ways to demonstrate that. In addition to the awareness of the power of political and social activism, there is a growing awareness of the power of “subtle activism”. Subtle activism may not be a term that many are familiar with, so just what is subtle activism? The 2002 website of SUNY Press describes it as, “…the use of consciousness-based practices like meditation and prayer to support collective transformation, such as global meditation directed toward peaceful resolution of a conflict. Subtle activism represents a bridge between the consciousness movement and the movements for peace, environmental sustainability, and social justice. It is not a substitute for physical action but rather a potentially crucial component of a more integrated approach to social change.”
Whenever we gather for worship, do we not reconnect and reexperience that Divine Love that is Christ? Whenever we pray for peace or for any changes in our world, are we not in fact engaged in subtle activism? But our subtle activism should not end there; it can and must be carried over into all aspects of our lives. It must inform how we think about the challenges currently in our world, the way we relate to them emotionally, and how we respond to them in our daily lives. Instead of condemning or thinking negatively of or feeling angry or resentful toward those responsible for those challenging situations, do we instead draw on the Love of Christ that dwells within us and pray for them to become aware of the consequences of their actions and to experience a change of heart? Do we refrain from condemning or mocking them in our public discourse, with friends, or with family? Do we refrain from the negativity that does nothing to improve the situations but only compounds the situations further?
My sisters and brothers, we must do our part to help humanity move beyond our collective global Good Friday to our collective Easter Sunday. It’s easy for us to feel that we have nothing of value to contribute to this effort, but that simply isn’t true. We have in fact the single most powerful resource for the transformation of the world, Christ’s love. Our global Easter Sunday awaits. I invite you to do your part to make it a lived reality for all humanity.
Please accept my sincere wishes for a blessed and joyful Easter. May your celebration of the Resurrection of Christ awaken in you an increased experience of Christ’s powerful love. May that experience of Christ’s love awaken in you an increased desire to be of service to our hurting world.
Your brother in Christ,
+Mark Elliott Newman
Presiding Bishop – Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch