From time to time it is important to stop and ask ourselves why we do what we do as a Church. As I travel the archdiocese and visit with the faithful, I hear all sorts of comments and concerns. Many of our people are very proud and happy about the strong sense of community that is present in their parish. That experience of community, love and support is very important to them. Many people are concerned about declining numbers of parishioners who actively participate in the parish, especially going to Mass. Others are very concerned about our young people and want to find ways to keep them in the Church and practicing their faith.

I am led to ask why. Why do we want a strong community in our parish? Why do we not want to see family, friends and parishioners drift away from the Church? Why do we want to keep our young people active in the Church? Is it just to keep the numbers up so we look good and vibrant? Is it so we can give people a positive and emotionally uplifting experience? Is it so we can balance the budget and run programs? The true answer to the question of “why” may seem obvious to some, but perhaps not to all. What is the Church here for?

It all comes down to the Paschal Mystery of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which we celebrate at this holy time of the year. His sacred passion, death, resurrection and ascension are the key to everything that we do as a Church. The eternal Son of God became man, suffered, died, was buried and rose on the third day in order to save us from our sins, destroy death and open for us the way to eternal life. That is the Good News! It’s John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus Christ came to save us, reconcile us to the Father through his death and resurrection, and raise us to new life. Now this may seem obvious to most, but I wonder sometimes if this is first and foremost in our thoughts when we consider our lives as Catholics in the Church. The Church continues Christ’s saving mission throughout the ages until he comes again in glory at the end of the world. The Church is the universal “sacrament” of salvation for the world. Our ultimate destiny by God’s design is to live with him forever in heaven, and the Church is the means he uses to save us and usher us into his Kingdom.

So we want to keep people in the Church and we are concerned about losing our youth because we want them to experience this new life in Christ and the gift of eternal salvation. Everything else the Church does in all of her many important apostolates and ministries serves this ultimate goal and purpose. We want strong parish communities not for the sake of community itself, but as a vehicle for helping people live their life fully in Christ and one day be together in the Kingdom of Heaven. Community in the Church does not exist as an end in itself, but as a means to a higher end — the ultimate end and purpose of our life.

Those who remember their old Baltimore Catechism will remember the answer to the question, “Why did God make you?” To know him, love him and serve him in this world, so as to be happy with him forever in the next. The Church’s mission is to help people come to know the love and mercy of God, to respond by loving God in return with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength, and to serve him, especially in our brothers and sisters. But this is all so that we will be with God forever in the joy and peace of his Kingdom.

The Paschal Mystery of Christ is made truly present for us, not only as we celebrate Holy Week and Easter, but truly in every Mass that we celebrate throughout the year. The sacrifice he once offered on the altar of the cross for our salvation is made sacramentally and truly present for us in the Holy Mass. This is the profound mystery of our salvation which Christ willed to be available for every generation of believers until the end of time.

As we celebrate the joy of Easter and Christ’s Resurrection, let us give praise to God, who in his infinite mercy and love has come to rescue us from our sins and eternal death. May the light of the Risen Christ shine on you, your family and all your loved ones, and be with you this day and forever!