April 14, 2006

Seeking the Face of the Lord

The mystery of Easter holds out promise for everyone

Easter is called the feast of feasts, the solemnity of solemnities. It is the first feast the Church ever celebrated. We wish each other a Happy Easter.

What do we mean when we say Happy Easter? Are we rejoicing because Lent is over and we no longer have to abstain from meat on Fridays? Or is it because now we don’t have to keep Lenten resolutions for another year? Does Happy Easter mean Happy Spring? Let’s feel good because another gray winter is behind us!

There is probably some of all that and much more in Happy Easter. I feel sorry for those among us for whom this is just another Sunday in April. There will be thousands of people roaming our streets and roads looking for something to do on this feast of feasts, perhaps more annoyed than usual because many shops and stores are closed. They will be looking for something worthwhile in life, for someone who cares.

The truth is that the mystery of Easter holds out promise for everyone. But even if those lonely and bored folks were to walk into our churches on Easter Sunday, it would not be easy for them, as it is not easy for us to understand the tremendous gift of Easter for our human family.

We say Jesus won a great victory over death. We believe it, but maybe a bit haltingly. We don’t understand death—and what we do understand frightens us. So we don’t let ourselves think about it too much. It is far off, we think. Maybe it is not.

I dare say those among us who have brushed face-to-face with death feel more strongly the impact of what it means that Jesus conquered death once and for all. For the moment, most of us have to believe it in our minds.

Yet, common sense moves us to stop and think. If this life is the end of everything, if our existence ended with death, there really would not be enough to live and work and suffer for. Sure, we have fun, and there are so many joys in life. But they are always here today and gone tomorrow. There is always the letdown of the morning after. And we want more.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ means that after you and I walk through the vestibule of this life and go through the door of death, as we all will, then life just begins. Joy beyond all imagining, unending happiness and peace of heart just begin.

Our first parents locked the door of death. Christ, by his incredible suffering and death, in love, opened the door. He broke the lock of sin and death. That was his Easter. And we celebrate it each year and every Sunday. We have been set free. We are no longer hopelessly locked in the darkness of death.

And now, you and I can wait for our Easter with peaceful minds and hearts. Rather than live with incredible dread that all is for nothing in the end, rather than live in fear that death is a locked door for us, we have sure hope in a beautiful life to come. Christ gave us this gift of hope. Christ won freedom for us which no one can take away. Christ put us back in touch with God, the almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, who can do anything. And has! That is why we say Happy Easter!

And on Easter Monday, when we return to workaday life, will we return with a little more faith and a lot more love? Or will it be a return to living on the surface of life? Holy Week and the Triduum ending with the Easter celebration give us a glimpse of a deeper reality. As the Son of God, Jesus shattered the power of death and sin.

His death tells of powerful love, and his Resurrection is a call to deeper faith and hope. We have found a hope stronger than superficial history and a love mightier than death. Do we believe that?

On Easter Sunday, we renew our baptismal promises and we are sprinkled with the holy water of Easter as a reminder that we have entered a deeper reality of life. We believe we were made sisters and brothers in the baptismal womb of Mother Church.

In baptism, we passed with Jesus from death into a deeper reality of life, which does not end with death. We may not understand birth and death; we may not understand rebirth and resurrection. Yet, like Peter, as he stooped to look into the empty tomb, we can only be amazed.

Thank God for the gift of our faith! There is more to life and reality than meets the eye! †


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