April 10, 2009

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Easter is the only hope for the human condition

Cynthia DewesThe insignificance of the human creature was made more apparent to me recently when we received an e-mail video from a niece.

It was all about the vastness of the universe, described in a catchy song and pictures of cosmic distances and light years and galaxies. It really put me in my place, namely hanging by a thread at the bottom of an intricate creation.

Of course, it reinforced my conviction that there is a God. But it also made me wonder why God would bother not only to make pitiful creatures like us, but also to love us unconditionally. Maybe it’s just because for God all things are possible. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful. I love this human life.

But when we think about the history of time and the size and complexity of God’s universe, we realize how limited we humans are. Our time on Earth is relatively short, and our skills do not extend to perfection. When we add in our faults and mistakes, we shrink even more. We gain dignity only through the scriptural assurance that God constantly loves and forgives us, as though who we are at our worst and what sinful things we did had never happened.

We are indeed a sorry lot sometimes. We murder our own babies, who personify the only creative power we share with God. We rationalize private prejudices into world wars, ignore the poor because they make us uncomfortable, and generally defy laws of God and nature whenever it pleases us. Selfishness and greed mark our characters about as often as humility and kindness.

Especially at this time of year, we can’t help but think about our place in the universe and its renewal. The tulips and daffodils are poking up, the breezes are warmer and the sun seems to shine more. We begin to hear the birds again and change winter clothing for summer clothes. We might even think about washing the windows or cleaning out the garage. Maybe.

At any rate, the inherent gift of this season is rebirth, renewal, refreshment and rededication to living a meaningful human life. The energizing we get from the natural scene, however, is merely an aid to the greater purpose because it is Easter that gives us the real motivation of hope.

Hope is built on trust. Children are so charming because they innocently believe in us adults, and always trust with certainty that we are the strongest, best and smartest people on Earth. Sadly, this is true even of abused kids.

Spouses, lovers and friends also must hope and trust in each other. Employers and employees need to be trustworthy in personal relations and with their customers. Even economic and political systems can be hopeful only when they’re based on trust.

Nihilism, atheism and other similar ideas do nothing to produce hope in life. They are fatalistic, and eliminate the possibility of joy because they can allow no trust in anyone or anything “seen or unseen.” They are death without the hope of resurrection and reunion with a loving God. This despite all the evidence around them of greater power and purpose.

It is hope in Christ’s promise that lifts us above the human condition and sets us on the path to eternal glory, illustrated so dramatically in the universe. Happy Easter! Happy hope!

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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