April 20, 2021
Lenten sacrifices have come and gone and the final dyed Easter egg devoured.
So what’s next? Is it simply a time of slipping back in the ordinary when it comes to attending Mass.
The Easter season is a lived experience in which people “care, share and dare” in proclaiming the Gospel message, said Father Tat Hoang CSsR, pastor of St. Gerard Majella Church in Baton Rouge.
“Easter Sunday is only the beginning,” beamed Father Hoang.
He exuded joy as he talked about the 50-day season as a time to join in the passion of the early apostles as they witnessed the risen Lord.
Noting that Lent is a good time to lay the foundation for a joyful Easter season, Father Hoang said he woke up at 5:30 a.m. and wrote reflections and a “question of the day” and shared them through emails and social media. He conversed with people around the Diocese of Baton Rouge and beyond and witnessed conversions, seeds planted.
Now people are being invited to join various ministries at St. Gerard to keep that momentum going and build a sense of community.
Father Hoang also fosters the importance of spiritual evangelization.
“People are not only hungry for the word of God but for the real, true joy of the message,” said Father Hoang.
He pointed out some are blocked from living out the Easter message from laziness, fear, anger, resentment or seeing the glass “half empty.” They may also be afraid of God and think he condemns them.
“When he sees someone coming to church, I believe he says, ‘Why don’t you come back?’ He is very grateful,” said Father Hoang.
He illustrated his point with the Gospel reading of the Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. In St. John’s Gospel, when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the locked room after his resurrection, his first words were “Peace be with you.”
“People have to turn their thoughts from a God of punishment to the God of love and forgiveness,” said Father Hoang.
God is also the giver of gratitude, he added.
“I have three guiding principals of God in my life: God knows me better than myself, God loves me better than I love myself and God’s plan is bigger than my plan” Father Hoang said. “Even through turmoil, I believe things happen not only for a reason, but for a good reason.”
This attitude of gratitude is easy to cultivate. Father Hoang noted when people enjoy a cup of coffee that the cup and coffee are there because workers helped produce them and even the water itself “came from somewhere – God.”
“God has given us so much, let us recognize and rejoice in that,” said Father Hoang.
The resulting fruit of living out the Easter joy is the building a community of evangelizers, with Father Hoang noting the early apostles are the models.
“This is the best time for all Christians, especially Catholic Christians, to pay attention to (the readings of) the Acts of the Apostles,” he said.
Rather than putting the apostles on a pedestal and seeing their way of life as unattainable, Father Hoang said, “The apostles were human just like us in many different ways.”
And the true living of the Gospel message is not easy, he emphasized.
“I think evangelization is lived outside of your comfort zone,” said Father Hoang.
He added it also takes a lot of prayer.
“I tell people, ‘Without prayer, we become a social worker rather that missionary. But through prayer, you don’t do this by yourself but with God,’ ” said Father Hoang.
But like the apostles, Catholics are commissioned to reach out to others by caring about them, sharing the stories of their lives with them and daring them to change.
“This is the Holy Spirit at work. I believe we are the people of the resurrection,” said Father Hoang.