The Lesson of Notre Dame

Most of the world was shocked at the beginning of Holy Week as we witnessed the beloved and iconic Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris engulfed in flames. Many people prayed, some were shocked and speechless, others were just at loss for words and did not know how to respond. Yet, as the firefighters fought bravely to contain the fire and save the cathedral, interesting details began to emerge. When they were able to enter the sanctuary afterward, many were surprised to see that the interior and its main structure withstood the firey heat. What seemed worst at first was met with many miraculously wonders, especially in consideration of how it was built, in particular, its firm foundations and strong walls.

Many people were also astounded by the courage and commitment of firefighters as they fought to contain the fire. The priest-chaplain, Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier (which literally means, “fire tender”) and his fellow firefighters ran into the cathedral to save the Eucharist and many important relics. It was said that he gave those around him benediction when he was able to retrieve the Eucharist. In an interviewed, he said: “Here I am completely alone in the [nave of the] cathedral, in the middle of burning debris falling down from the ceiling, I call upon Jesus to help us save His home. I did not want to simply leave with Jesus: I took the opportunity to perform a Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament.” The Mayor of Paris said that the firefighters “formed the formidable human chain” to save the cathedral and to make sure those who went inside were kept said. Over and over again, many courageous acts were done to save the beloved cathedral and the important relics contained within it.

Initially, many thought that the combination of the flames and heat, combine with the stone structure, would make the interior into a living incinerator. However, in the midst of many findings, I saw that the Cross and the Pieta (marble statue depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary beholding the Lord Jesus Christ after the crucifixion) remained intact and stood strong. Many valuable things, once thought lost but were found relatively intact. Some pictures showed even many of the candles that were lit by the faithful earlier in the day were still flickering and kept burning. For those of us who have faith could see how the hand of God was at work to save and protect those who were working hard to keep their beloved cathedral from burning down. Again, Fr. Fournier said something so beautiful in an interview, explaining to reporters why he tried his best to save the Blessed Sacrament in the midst of falling debris and burning flames: “Everybody understands that the Crown of Thorns is an absolutely unique and extraordinary relic, but the Blessed Sacrament is Our Lord, really present in His body, soul, divinity, and humanity and you understand that it is hard to see someone you love perish in the blaze. As firefighters, we often see casualties from fire and we know its effects; this is why I sought to preserve above all the real presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” I do not believe that it was a coincidence how many things were preserved from the burning flames and excruciating heat. God heard the prayers of His people, especially the courageous priests and his fellow firefighters!

Even in the midst of apparent tragedy, many people stood around the cathedral and prayed together. Some were saying the Rosary while others sang the Ave Maria. In the midst of what thought to be a very secularistic area and capital of France, faith united and lifted hearts in the midst of what seemed to be lost. In a way, what happened in Paris with Notre Dame is similar to the story of Easter! What seemed lost by the selfishness and evil done by humanity was taken and transformed by the Lord Jesus Christ as the effective means of salvation, how divine love personally answered human evil and its pettiness.

The Almighty took our evil intentions, transformed and made it the great personal manifestation of love that vindicated and conquered, saved and redeemed us. The Paschal Mystery and its vindication on Easter remind us that God ALWAYS has the final words, and that word is “LOVE.” Nothing can silent, muffle, or kill it! Our God is the Vindicator! He has risen and conquered sin, and with Him is our ALLELUIA!

We are the Easter people! Let us, therefore, remember that Jesus Christ is not just a choice among many. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! We are His disciples and witnesses, the living testimonial that Love had and will conquer this world because GOD IS LOVE. He has shown us how to love as He chose to suffer, died, and rose again for us.

So, let us honestly ask ourselves… Are we the Easter people? Do we truly believe and walk with Him? Are we willing to embrace the Cross, enter into the darkness of the tomb, as to be raised by Him? Or, do we simply want to be bystanders, part of the crowd, or abandon hope when it gets tough? Is the life of Christ enlivened in us, in our everyday life, how we worship and come to the Eucharist every week, or only a few times and when it is convenient for us?

The antiphon for the Easter’s Mass and throughout the season reminds us that, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad!” We have to be glad in Him and rejoice in His goodness. He has won the world and its petty evil and selfish agenda. Do we believe and allow Him to be the Lord of our hearts? This is our ALLELUIA! This is our joy! This is our hope! This is why we believe!

He has risen. ALLELUIA!