Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Once upon a time… the pagan rulers of Ireland — in their attempts to combat Christianity — decreed that on the night of the Vigil no fire would be allowed to be lit. When the night came, darkness covered the countryside. The king smiled approvingly, convinced that he had won. But St. Patrick and his followers refused to obey and built a towering Easter Fire on top of a hill; the leaping flames could be seen for miles around. Enraged, the king sent his troops to slaughter the Christians… who miraculously escaped.
We continue to gather as a community of faith at the Easter Vigil, exulting in the “end to gloom and darkness” brought by Christ’s Resurrection and imaged by the Easter Fire and Paschal Candle… “a fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its light.”
While in Rome for my ad limina visit, I was reminded of our tremendous history, our story as a Christian people, as a Church. Yes, there are times when we have faithfully borne Christ’s light and have helped to dispel the darkness of ignorance and illness, of sin and brokenness, of division and discord. And, sadly, there are times when we have allowed that flickering flame to diminish, when the darkness has seemed poised to overcome the light, by what we have done and we have failed to do.
But we are the people of the Resurrection, of hope; we are called to more. We are called to be a light to the nations; Christ bids us to share the Good News with the whole of creation. In all we say and do, implicitly and explicitly, part of our baptismal identity — an identity we will renew and reclaim at the font this Easter — is to be evangelists. We need not be afraid or embarrassed. The Spirit, whose coming and abiding presence we celebrate at Pentecost, empowers us. St. Patrick and the other Christians who carried the light of Christ with them throughout Ireland dispelled the darkness of that time and place. We can do no less in southeastern Iowa in 2012.
May the abiding presence of the Risen Christ be with you always.
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Rev. Martin Amos
Bishop of Davenport