Christ is risen! He is truly risen! There you have the joyful greeting that covers the airwaves the Easter morning. Yet, what comes to mind as I imagine Christians on Easter morning is not the resounding joyous exchange, but a possible feeling of deception. Strange feeling for Easter! But I don’t dodge it. In fact, what’s Easter if it’s disconnected from the realities of life? So, here’s the question I ask: What change does Easter bring in the manner we live pains in life? That’s the reflection I propose to you.
Acts 10: 34, 37–43
Psalm 118: 1–2, 16–17, 22–23
Colossians 3: 1–4
John 20: 1–9
Strange Easter thought
Behind the habitual Easter greetings that we will hear, manifestly joyful, I just can’t ignore a certain feeling of deception that may lie hidden in the heart of many Christians. I think of the scene that we will meet during this Easter period, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. There you have a feel of the pain that comes not only from a loss but also of deception: We thought he was the one who was going to save Israel, as if to say: our hope has come to nothing. How does that connect with us?
Imagine the energy invested in Lent as we prepared for Easter, sustained by hope for new life. Now here we are, singing alleluia -Christ is risen. He has triumphed over death and we are partakers of his victory. Really? Do we mean it?
Reality of life
Yet, some Christians wake up on the Easter morning to their daily “passion”: persecutions, familial conflicts, marriage on rocks, others are shocked by the news of the death of their beloved ones, and still others are standing around the hospital bed, paralysed by what they dread to happen. In that moment, obviously, we are “forced” to reflect: what’s the meaning of the victory we sing about when, in fact, materially nothing changes in our life? Our joyous Easter greeting, in the end, risks becoming a mere mask of the pain and sense of deception we carry deep within us.
That’s why living Easter as a real-life changing experience demands more than just shouting out the habitual, joyous greeting. The starting point would be confronting the Easter message with what we are actually living: pain, loss, fear, deception. In short, the Easter event becomes really a liberation in the measure that it changes us from our lying position, which is a sign of defeat and death, and enable us to stand straight with confident hope for better tomorrow. To experience such liberation it requires us, as the Gospel testifies, putting us on the road that leads us out there to see and discern the signs of hope.
In the Gospel we have a sombre beginning but after some movement, agitated though, the end is nevertheless much brighter. On the Sunday morning while still dark, Mary Madeleine goes to the tomb of Jesus, obviously expecting nothing better or worse -she knows her master and Lord is dead. But a shock awaits her. The body is not there! What has happened? In our today’s vocabulary we would speak of the unscrupulous persons who not only contented with themselves with vandalising the tomb and but went on even to steal the body. It’s a message of vandalism and theft that Mary carries, making Peter and the other disciple rush to the tomb to see for themselves what happened.
Inside the tomb, what do the find? The cloths used to wrap the dead body are there uselessly lying in there! They can’t hold captive the master of life. The Gospel tells us, the other disciple sees and believes. It’s already a step into dawn of hope. Their courage, even in that moment of pain and discouragement, begins to pay dividend. How then can Easter stimulate us?
Easter is not seasonal euphoria
What helps to change the scenario in the Gospel is the courage firstly, of Mary Madeleine and later of the two disciples who despite the pain of loss don’t remain there lying down in defeat. They put themselves onto the road, leading them out there to see and discern “signs” which enable them to perceive differently the absence of the body of Jesus. Indeed, isn’t Easter a liberation for us when it opens us to a hopeful way of seeing the reality of our life?
That’s why, I esteem, Easter as not just a momentary euphoria when Christians forget the painful reality of their daily life to shout alleluia. Rather, it’s an event that stimulates us to look out for the signs of hope even in the most painful events of our life. Then, even if we find ourselves around the deathbed, and yet, we stand there straight, with confidence that the passing on of those we treasure is not “vandalism” but a passage to new life that Jesus offers us in the Easter event.
Then we can pray that this Easter may stimulate us to be always on the lookout for signs of hope, especially in our painful experiences.
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