"Easter invites us to let Jesus help us gain courage once again, after we’ve had our trust betrayed."
Easter is the feast of all feasts, the unadulterated joy and happiness for all Christians. On this day, Christ conquered death in glory and took away the sins of the earth. By his death he destroyed death and by his resurrection he restored life. We whose bodies are sullied with sin are promised immortality by Christ’s shedding of his blood and conquest of death. We too have been restored by his resurrection. And by this mystery, with such a certitude, we should banish all trace of sadness. With Christ rising from the dead, anything is possible. The mighty could be humbled and the lowly. The core message of Easter is that even in the direst of situations, there is always hope. Now life will triumph over death.
The scripture says that it the very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. The disciple saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,” she said, “and we don’t know where they have put him.” Peter immediately set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple came to the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.
Jesus confronted death head on, for our sake. By his singular sacrifice and shedding of blood, the venom of the serpent was rendered ineffectual. It was a joyous event knowing that their Master has risen from the dead. Pope Francis said that because of this singular event a Christian must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! The tone of Easter is joy in the refrain—we are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.
We say that physical death is the most terrible thing that can happen to our mortal body. But for the believer, it is not. What is more gruesome that can cause a believer to shudder in fear is to be separated from God. It is this separation that can condemn us to eternal despair. Many painful things can happen to our physical body which, by our instinct, we loath and avoid as much as possible. Hunger, persecution, injustice, sadness and other things we despise happen to us every so often. That is why because of our almost irresistible desire to preserve our physical well-being, we often resort to the vilest of sins which inevitably separate us from God.
Last Palm Sunday, Pope Francis condemned the opposite of the cross—triumphalism which makes use of shortcuts and false compromises: “It wants to jump onto the carriage of the winner. It lives off gestures and words that are not forged in the crucible of the cross; it grows by looking askance at others and constantly judging them inferior, wanting, failures…”
Pope Francis said that Jesus destroyed triumphalism by his Passion:
“He knows that true triumph involves making room for God and that the only way to do that is by stripping oneself, by self-emptying. To remain silent, to pray, to accept humiliation. There is no negotiating with the cross: one either embraces it or rejects it. By his self-abasement, Jesus wanted to open up to us the path of faith and to precede us on that path xxx
Festive acclamations and brutal torture; the silence of Jesus throughout his Passion is profoundly impressive. He also overcomes the temptation to answer back, to act like a “superstar”. In moments of darkness and great tribulation, we need to keep silent, to find the courage not to speak, as long as our silence is meek and not full of anger. The meekness of silence will make us appear even weaker, more humble. Then the devil will take courage and come out into the open. We need to resist him in silence, “holding our position”, but with the same attitude as Jesus. He knows that the battle is between God and the prince of this world and that what is important is not putting our hand to the sword but remaining firm in faith. It is God’s hour. At the hour that God comes forth to fight, we have to let him take over . . . This will help us to live in the sacred tension between the memory of the promises made, the suffering present in the cross, and the hope of the resurrection.”
Last Saturday, during the Easter Vigil mass in the Basilica of Saint Peter in Vatican City, Pope Francis reminded us that we are each called “to rediscover in the Risen Christ the one who rolls back from our heart the heaviest of stones.”
Francis names those stones: “Often what blocks hope is the stone of discouragement. Once we start thinking that everything is going badly and that things can’t get worse, we lose heart and come to believe that death is stronger than life. We become cynical, negative and despondent. Stone upon stone, we build within ourselves a monument to our own dissatisfaction:the sepulcher of hope. Life becomes a succession of complaints and we grow sick in spirit. A kind of tomb psychology takes over: everything ends there, with no hope of emerging alive. But at that moment, we hear once more the insistent question of Easter:Why do you seek the living among the dead?The Lord is not to be found in resignation. He is risen; he is not there. Don’t seek him where you will never find him: he is not the God of the dead but of the living (cf. Mk 22:32). Do not bury hope!
There is another stone that often seals the heart shut: the stone of sin. Sin seduces; it promises things easy and quick, prosperity and success, but then leaves behind only solitude and death. Sin is looking for life among the dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away. Why do you seek the living among the dead? Why not make up your mind to abandon that sin which, like a stone before the entrance to your heart, keeps God’s light from entering in? Why not prefer Jesus, the true light (cf. Jn1:9), to the glitter of wealth, career, pride and pleasure? Why not tell the empty things of this world that you no longer live for them, but for the Lord of life?”
Easter tells us that we don’t have to die to share in the glory of his resurrection. It invites us to let Jesus help us gain courage once again, after we’ve had our trust betrayed. We as a people are confronted with a myriad of misfortunes, political, social and economic. Yet the risen Christ has given us hope; hope that in the end we will be liberated from these misfortunes. Jesus is ready to work miracles for us, if we but let him. All we need is to trust in him and surrender ourselves to his will.
Happy Easter everyone!