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What Can Saint Rita Teach Us About Easter?

by Jeremy Hiers, O.S.A.


Roll away the stone.  At Christmas we rejoiced that love has come.  Now at Easter we rejoice that love has won.

Love always wins.

On Easter morning the early followers of Jesus discover an empty tomb.  When they went into that grave they discovered that Jesus, who had been crucified, was now risen from the dead.  Evil had tried to kill love on Good Friday and evil quickly discovered on Easter morning that you cannot kill love. Love has won, roll away the stone.

All of us have various stones of various sizes in our lives.  Stones that threaten to entomb us in graves of fear, jealousy, anger or resentment.  There are stones that threaten to trap us in graves of shame or guilt over something in our past.  Some of us find ourselves in tombs that say we are not good enough.  Others among us find ourselves in tombs of addiction.  Still some of us find ourselves in tombs of grief.  

You name them, we all have stones that threaten to entomb us and prevent us from experiencing the newness of life that is ours at Easter.

Today we are invited to renew our awareness that these stones have no power over us, they have been rolled away through the power of the Resurrection.  We are invited to open our hearts to new life, because love has won.  The victory of Christ has been given to us.  

I believe the life of Saint Rita exemplifies this Easter victory so well.  She was a woman who faced tremendous stones in her life.  

When faced with civil unrest in her hometown, she struggled as any citizen would over the issues of her day.  Yet she fell not into the grave of division and conflict.  Rather she looked towards love to find new life in peacemaking.

When her husband was brutally murdered, she grieved and struggled as any wife would.  Yet, she fell not into the grave of revenge and resentment.  Rather she looked towards love to find newness of life in reconciliation.

When her two sons died from an illness, she grieved and struggled as any mother would.  Yet, she fell not into the grave of despair, but looked rather to divine love.  There she found newness of life in the hope that biological death was not the end of the story. 

In the end, love will always rise up and win.  Saint Rita reminds that while discipleship is not easy, while it is not always easy to choose love, in the end it is always worth the journey because love always wins.

So here we are, the disciples of 2021, invited once again this Easter to rediscover the newness of life that has been won for us.  To once again roll away the stones of our life and walk out of the tombs that we may find ourselves in.  

Yet, it is not always clear what exactly this newness of life we are invited to seek looks like.  It wasn’t immediately clear to Saint Rita and it certainly wasn’t immediately clear to the early disciples either.  We even hear Mary Magdalene ask a very practical question on their way to the tomb when they thought Jesus was still dead.  She asks how in the world they are going to roll back the heavy stone to anoint the body of Jesus?  (Mark 16:1-7).  We too might find ourselves asking how to roll back the heavy stones of our lives.

Over the next 50 days we will be invited to journey with the early disciples to discover what the Resurrection and this victory of love really looks like in 2021.  The next 50 days will be like one big Easter Sunday as we discover anew the power of the Resurrection in our lives today. The risen Lord will meet us when we, like the early disciples, feel locked in rooms of fear and confusion.  The Risen Lord will offer us words of peace and invite us to remember all that He has promised us (John 20:19-23).

The risen Lord will meet us when we, like Thomas, face doubts about our faith (John 20:24-30).  We will be invited to look to Him and give Him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps by considering how God has worked in our own lives in the past or in the lives of other people.

The risen Lord will meet us in our times of confusion or when we feel we don’t have what it takes to follow Him.  The risen Lord will remind us of the strength we find when we unite ourselves to Him as a branch does to a vine (John 15:1-8).  The risen Lord will remind us we are never alone.  He will teach us that He is our shepherd and we are His sheep and invite us to allow Him to lead us on the next step we are called to take (John 10:11-18). 

As we journey with Him, the risen Lord will continually remind us of his saving presence and how he is actively working.  He will strengthen us as we receive Him each week in the Eucharist (Luke 24:35-48).

The risen Lord will meet all of us as we discern together what it means to be Church in 2021 and how to share the good news of Easter with the world around us.  He will pray for us to be united in truth and love (John 17:11-19) and promise to send His Spirit to be with us and guide us as we journey forward together (John 16:5-15).

Roll away the stone.  Love has won, newness of life is here.  

Are our hearts ready to receive it? 

Are we ready for the journey out of the tomb?

Saint Rita, pray for us!

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