The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 12, 2014

Faithful to relive Christ’s journey to the cross, ending with Easter

Area faithful are commemorating Palm Sunday today. In the coming days, the most solemn events will be presented liturgically in Christian churches.

Clergy and church members will relive the great mysteries of salvation, which will culminate with the celebration of Easter on April 20.

The Most Rev. Mark L. Bartchak, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, described his feelings about Easter as “very hopeful.”

Resurrection of Christ

He reflected on the story of the Resurrection of Christ as told in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 28:1-10), which states that after the angel informed the faithful women who came to the tomb that Jesus had been raised from the dead, “They went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples.”

“Some might think that is a curious combination of emotions, fearful yet overjoyed,” he said.

“Yet, how many times have you and I had that feeling of confidence mixed with fear and how many times have we had a sense of security that comes from learning the truth, but we were not completely free of doubt?”

Bartchak said the story of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus is an important message for the world.

“The faithful women were told to go and tell the disciples that Jesus had been raised from the dead,” Bartchak said.

“I don’t know about you, but I am glad that they were not trapped by their mixed feelings. They ran to tell others the good news of the Resurrection.”

Permeates the world

Bartchak said Christ’s Resurrection is not an event of the past, but contains a power that permeates the world, even now.

“Wherever and whenever we think that everything seems dead, signs of the Resurrection suddenly spring up,” he said.

“Pope Francis calls this ‘an irresistible force.’

“At Easter, we are reminded to discover and experience that Christ is risen and glorified. He is the wellspring of our hope, and he will not deprive us of the help we need to carry out whatever role we have been given in telling others about the Resurrection.”

Matthew’s Gospel

In the story of Easter in Matthew’s Gospel, it says that as the faithful women ran to share the message of the Resurrection with his disciples, “Jesus met them and greeted them.”

Before sending them on their way to deliver the message, Jesus showed his immediate and personal concern for Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.

“He said, ‘Do not be afraid,’ ” Bartchak said. “When he said that, Jesus was setting them free from the potential impact of the deepest worry and concern of their lives at that moment.

“The negative and paralyzing impact of the circumstances and feelings of their lives were overcome by the power of the Resurrection,” he said.

“The only thing left for them at that moment was a renewed faith and overwhelming joy.”

Holy Week

As Holy Week begins today, the Rev. Keith Dunn, pastor of Belmont United Methodist Church in Richland Township, said the Gospels

give the sense of tensions that are rising between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day.

They see Jesus as a threat to their power.

“Jesus is a bit elusive to his followers as well,” Dunn said.

“They are crying out for a king to free them from political oppression and Jesus is coming to set people free spiritually. The palms distributed that day are a reminder of Jesus being welcomed as king.”

As Holy Thursday commemorates Christ’s Last Supper, Dunn said two important things happen in this part of the biblical narrative.

Jesus washes the disciples’ feet and takes on the role of a servant.

“Jesus uses this as a teaching moment to command his disciples to humbly serve and love one another just as he has,” Dunn said.

The Rev. Alice Tondora, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, 309 Lincoln St., Johnstown, said Maundy Thursday demonstrates how Christ gave humanity a new commandment: love one another.

“When we love one another, everyone can see that we are his disciples,” Tondora said.

“He showed his 12 disciples, and us, in two actions what that kind of love looks like. Jesus stooped and washed their feet, as only a slave would do. Then he shared the bread and cup with them, his body and blood given freely for the salvation of the world.”

On Good Friday, Christians commemorate the passion, or offering, and death of Jesus Christ on the cross, which gives the faithful many things to consider most notably the suffering that Christ endured.

“We can also consider the forgiveness Jesus offered to his tormentors and to a thief who was being killed for crimes he committed,” Dunn said.

“The most important thing that I see in the cross is the depths of God’s love for humanity.”

Christians prepare for Easter and may attend an Easter vigil service.

On Easter Sunday, also referred to as Resurrection Day, Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

According to Scripture, Christians believe that Jesus came back to life, or was raised from the dead, three days after his death on the cross.

“It gives believers hope that Christ has defeated both sin and death,” Dunn said.

“We can live a new life today because of Jesus and we have hope for the future.”

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