The resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday marks the ultimate triumph of life over death. For Catholics, it marks the end of our Lenten journey of repentance and conversion towards a new life of love by the dying of our old and sinful selves. Lent and Easter give us grace-filled opportunities to move on with God, despite our reticence.
“Do not be afraid” is the message of the Risen Christ to his apostles. Today, there is an urgent need for this message to be preached. As I write this, the world is experiencing senseless killing of men, women and children because of poverty, violence and disease. As I write this, some, or many of us, are experiencing difficulties in our own lives. I am writing this and wondering how we are to preach the message of the Resurrection without being pessimistic. How convinced are we about the victory of Jesus?
We read the scriptures and we see that the Resurrection stories do not give us answers in a scientific and systematic way. In fact, some of the stories leave us with more questions than answers. These stories close the chapter on sin and evil that marked the death of Jesus, but the same stories open for us endless possibilities of a life with God, in the here and now. They give us opportunities!
Perhaps, the closing of chapters – so much part of the stories of scriptures – are also part of our lives. Not only do we close the doors to sin, fear and anxiety, but we also close the doors that prevent us from experiencing newness and new possibilities. It is not easy to close doors in our lives. We are afraid to leave the comfort, the security and the known ways of doing things. But, without closing the doors, we will not be able to open new doors. And that would be a tragedy.
In the readings of the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the Lord calls us through the Prophet Isaiah: “Remember not the events of the past, . . . for see, I am doing something new!” (Isaiah 43:18) And St Paul reminds us that there is one thing necessary for us: “Forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13) Yes, the reign of God is “not yet”, but the Risen Jesus is breaking through the locked doors of our insecurities and fears, (Cf. John 20:19) inviting us to join Him on the road. We are being called by the Risen Lord to renew our lives, to go to Him who offers life, and to listen to His voice, to allow God to reconstruct within us His vision of what it means to be sons and daughters of God, committed to helping to renew the face of the earth, through a conversion of our personal lives.
As sons and daughters of God, we are called to spread the vibrant Gospel message in an age of division, violence, and the tendency to promote a politics and culture of exclusion. We are called to become living examples of the vision to which Pope Francis is calling us: “Disinterested concern for others, and the rejection of every form of self-centredness and self-absorption, are essential if we truly wish to care for our brothers and sisters and for the natural environment. These attitudes also attune us to the moral imperative of assessing the impact of our every action and personal decision on the world around us. If we can overcome individualism, we will truly be able to develop a different lifestyle and bring about significant changes in society.” (Laudato Si, # 208)
Isaiah’s assurance that “we will eat well and delight in rich fare” (Isaiah 55:2) can be an image of new and transformed relationships, just as the Resurrection is a promise of newness and transformation. While not forgetting the past, we rediscover the source of our true identity in Christ, and the need and responsibility to seek life and not death, to seek forgiveness and mercy, not retribution and revenge, to seek reconciliation with one another, with the wider Church community, with all of humanity, and with all of Creation. This is what it means to “come to the water, without money, without price”. (Isaiah 55:1)
Biblical scholar Gerhard Lohfink wrote: “Being a Resurrection community means anticipating that at every hour the Spirit of Christ will show the community new paths, expecting new doors to open at any moment, counting on it that at any hour the Spirit can transform evil into good, hoping that every hour the impossible will become possible, and never saying ‘later!’ but always ‘now!’” (Jesus of Nazareth, Collegeville, 2012, p 306).
Brothers and sisters, that “now” is upon us! Let us allow the word of God to take root within us and seek what is above. Let us also remember those who are suffering, those who are grieving, those who are distressed in mind and heart that they too may experience new life.
A blessed Easter to all of you!
Friar Aiden Peter Jr OFM