Easter: Drawing closer to Christ brings light and love

As Easter draws closer, awareness grows of Christ’s promise of light, love and salvation – even through hardships and difficulties, two priests of the archdiocese said.
Jesus shows his transforming love in his life, death and resurrection, they said in interviews with the Catholic Voice. 
“Christ’s love is given, and it’s love that gives life,” said Father Richard Gabuzda, executive director of the Omaha-based Institute for Priestly Formation.
Through the Holy Spirit, the risen Jesus continues to act in his people, and his resurrection provides hope for everyone to have eternal life with him, Father Gabuzda said. 
Father David Fulton, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Central City and St. Peter Parish in Fullerton, said finding life in Christ is the universal call of the church.
“That’s the idea of our lives in Christ. We have this universal calling by our baptism,” said Father Fulton, also administrator of St. Peter Parish in Clarks. “We have this common thread in our parishes, that people are trying to grow in Christ.”
God could have chosen another way than the cross for his Son to save the world, but he wants people to realize the extent of his love for them, Father Gabuzda said.
“He wanted us to be so overwhelmed by the love of his Son, that we’d love him back,” he said. “That we’d see in this action an overwhelming love, and be overwhelmed ourselves.”
And through Lenten prayer, penance and sacrifices, people can present themselves at the cross as loved sinners, opening the door to Christ’s action, Father Gabuzda said.
“The more we are aware of being loved sinners, the more we are able to be humbled,” Father Gabuzda said. “To be with people, knowing they are like us. To taste and reveal that, it goes from head to heart, and we know it and are more likely to act out of it. We can love each other more – in Jesus.
“Being loved by him gives us the grace to love others,” he said.
It’s not easy, hardships abound, Father Gabuzda and Father Fulton said. But Christ works through difficulties and accompanies people even in their sinfulness, bringing them closer to him and guiding them. The Easter promises of love and salvation remain.
“People struggle in marriage and fight through their difficulties,” Father Fulton said. “There are a lot of everyday experiences where people do that.”
Eucharistic adoration, engaging in the Mass and going to confession all help bring people closer to Christ, and can lead to greater conversion and transformation, Father Fulton said.
Father Gabuzda recalled a time of transformation – an Easter moment – in his own life, about 25 years ago, when he undertook a 30-day retreat. 
“I had this tremendous sense of God’s love,” he said. “God wanted me to be free in ways I didn’t know I needed.”
One needed change was a tendency to try to figure things out on his own, “to compartmentalize God a little bit. I have to humbly say, to listen to myself more than to God.”
Other people might face different challenges, such as parents dealing with an unruly child through yelling and frustration, rather than listening and helping, Father Gabuzda said.
“We don’t often realize that underneath is concern for the child,” he said. A son or daughter running with the wrong crowd or making ill-chosen decisions can drive parents to fear and anger. Taken to God, those emotions can dissolve into love and understanding, and when expressed honestly, those emotions register deeply with children, no matter how they might outwardly respond, he said.
Father Fulton said transformation – an Easter moment – in his life came as a young adult, after growing up without going to church. He was confirmed at age 23, began going to confession and reading about the faith, and that led to his ordination 16 years ago.
“I took a lot of time to read and shore myself up,” he said. “I felt a call to the priesthood and people were affirming it.” 
It has led to a great life in Christ, filled with ministry in schools and nursing homes, hospitals and homes, Father Fulton said.
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