Archbishop Patrick C. Pinder
We arrive at Easter by way of a 40 day journey we call Lent. Easter is the center of our Liturgical calendar. The Celebration of Easter brings us back to the foundation of our faith. It takes us back to how it all began. It is essential for us to return to this Feast each year to remember what it is that we believe and why we believe it. We return to the very source of the strength and the hope that is within us.
From the liturgy of Easter Sunday we have words from the Acts of Apostles where Peter reports how:
Jesus “...went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil for God was with him. .... They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. Yet.... “God raised him on the third day....” (Acts10:37ff)
That is a basic, fundamental even primitive expression of our Christian faith. It is the bedrock upon which we place all our hope. It is the foundation upon which we build all our values. It is the cornerstone for all the meaning and purpose and motivation for good that is ours in this life. It is the source of the expectation we have for the fullness of life of which only hints and shadows are ours in this mortal existence. At Easter, we celebrate what Peter was speaking about when he says “God raised Him on the third day.” We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
We share in that resurrection by our very own baptism. Sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the way we understand our baptism. As St Paul says:
“Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in the newness of life.” (Romans 6: 3-4)
Continuing that same thought, the second reading for Easter Sunday which is taken from Colossians says this:
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)
Living in the newness of life and seeking what is above indicates life in the light of the resurrection.
Let us remember that at the beginning of Lent, in our preparation for Easter we were invited to undertake a journey of conversion. The words of the Prophet Joel from Ash Wednesday were very striking and very instructive as well. It is well for us to keep them in mind. The Prophet says to us:
“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing.” (Joel 2:12-14a)
“Rend your hearts, not your garments” says Joel. These words echo those of the First Book of Samuel which says: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7)
The call to conversion at the beginning of Lent and the call to live in the newness of life at the start of the Easter season remind us who we are and what we are to be doing. Paul reminds us that we are to be dead to sin and alive for God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)
From time to time we all find ourselves on intimate terms with sin in one form or another. We need to remember that sin has personal consequences for us. More than that, living in a community as we all do, sin has social consequences as well. Our selfishness, our dishonesty, our unfaithfulness and our prejudice all have consequences which reach beyond us. These consequences have effects within the community in which we live. Indeed they impact the quality of our life together. When we steal someone has to pay for it. If we are rude and disrespectful, someone is offended by it. Indeed, our sinful actions have effects beyond ourselves.
Likewise, the good we do has effects beyond our selves. An act of kindness, a word of encouragement or challenge or even rebuke when necessary may each have an effect beyond our expectations. The bad and the good in us affect those around us.
We are reminded on this very special feast that: We were indeed buried with [Christ] though baptism in his death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in the newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-11)
Again we are reminded: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at God’s right hand. Think of what is above…” (Colossians 3:1-4)
Our task is to affect those around us for the good always. In that way we build our community. In that way we make our community better for us all. The foundation for our values our meanings our hope and our community building is our Easter faith.
Easter continues our call to conversion. It is our call to goodness. It is our call to awaken the most noble aspects of our nature. The Easter proclamation declares: “Jesus Christ our King is risen!” With him rose all our hope. With him rose our desire to carry on despite all the distractions and disappointments and doubt which may encircle us in the course of any given day.
The Easter Season lasts for fifty days, until the Feast of Pentecost. Easter is, above all else a joyful season. To grasp that is to grasp what the gospel refers to when it says that Christ our life our light and our hope, rose from the dead. May the newness of life which Easter announces come to abide in our hearts and from there influence our lives, our community and our world.