ARCHBISHOP SEÁN BRADY
The Resurrection is the crowning truth of our faith in Jesus Christ. Some people are surprised by the statement that Easter is the most important of all Christian festivals. After all, they ask, does not that distinction belong to Christmas?
Of course, Christmas is a very significant feast because it celebrates the birth of Jesus. But Easter marks the most significant event of all, when Jesus suffered, died, and rose from the dead.
He passed from death to life. He set the world free from the slavery of sin and from the fear of death. He led us all into a freedom that will last forever. He is the Saviour of the world. St Paul’s frank assertion to the Corinthians proclaims a compelling truth: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain”.
Easter means that through the Son, God the Father stoops down to every woman and man and offers each one of us the possibility of freedom from sin and liberation from everlasting death.
When we celebrate the Easter ceremonies, commemorating the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ, we are placing our own bodies and sufferings under the sign of the cross. It is our way of saying to Christ: “We want to share in the mystery of your bodily dying and rising”. It is our way of expressing the hope that one day God will raise up and transform these poor, sick bodies, and our divided world as well.
Easter is a time of new life and new hope. The earth is waking from its winter slumber; buds are on the trees and the flowers of spring are in full bloom.
The light of the Easter candle is a powerful reminder to us of the sure hope that the Spirit of the Risen Lord continues to act in our lives and in our world. This is a time when we realise that what we yearn for in the depths of our hearts can become a reality.
We long for a safe and peaceful world where people can live in peace with God and with each other. A world where people can live with dignity, free of fear and intimidation. A world where everyone is made welcome – especially the sick, the weak and the old. At Easter, we do not simply commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as an event which occurred many years ago. The Risen Christ is with us here and now. His victory over death gives real grounds for hope that our deepest human hungers can be satisfied. One of the challenges of Easter is to confront honestly the weaknesses inherent in the human condition. At Easter we name the forces of darkness present in our world and in our own lives. We ignore these dark forces at our peril.
But we must not let these forces determine and control the course of our lives. Our prayer must be that the light of Christ, rising in glory, may dispel the darkness in our hearts and minds. Only the light of Christ is powerful enough to drive out hatred and anger from our hearts, hatred and anger nourished on the memory of ancient wrongs powerful enough to sour and embitter us. Only the light of Christ can enable us to move hearts hardened by bigotry and prejudice.
At Eastertide we celebrate the victory of Christ over those very forces of darkness. We celebrate that victory with joy because it points to God’s final triumph over the power of evil. Only Christ gives hope that does not deceive.
The light of Christ can help us to see ourselves as we really are. It can also help us to see and respect others as they are, not as we would wish them to be. They, like us, are equal and precious in the sight of God. We are all sinners, sinners to whom the real possibility of becoming saints is offered.
In the tomb Jesus conquered death with death. The continents of our planet are constantly being studded with fresh tombs. The culture of death would have us believe that death is the end; that there is nothing beyond the tomb which awaits each one of us. But all who look to the empty tomb of Jesus Christ, and the stone rolled back, are filled with resurrection faith.
May Christ’s victory over death fill you with resurrection faith this Easter. May the greeting “Peace be with you”, pronounced by the Risen Christ on Easter morn, become a powerful reality in your life now.
March 31, 1999