The most common image in most Catholic churches is the crucifix. It is displayed prominently, usually above the altar as a focal point of the congregation. Catholics have a long tradition emphasizing the Passion in our relationship with Jesus. For us, God shows His love for us by dying on the cross for our sins. There was no price which He was not willing to pay in order for the chance that we could be with Him forever.
But this focus on the Passion carries with it an inherent danger. While it is absolutely good and proper to keep Christ’s sacrifice in the forefront of our minds and hearts, we must never overlook the fact that the story does not end on Good Friday. We are not a people who live in perpetual sorrow over the loss of His life. We are something else.
We are an Easter people.
A few years ago I went to a wake for a co-worker’s mother. As we approached to give our condolences, I was surprised to see him so jovial. He spoke with a big smile about how his mother was now reunited with his father and the brother he had lost many years ago. His voice was strong and hopeful. I remember walking away amazed at his faith. Here was a man who lived in the hope of the Resurrection.
He understood that we are an Easter people.
The most important Holy Day of all the Holy Days is not Christmas, Ash Wednesday, or Even Good Friday. It is Easter.
Easter is so significant that it is re-enacted not just once a year, but once a week. Every Sunday is a mini-Easter. This is why the Christian Sabbath was moved from the Hebrew celebration on Saturday to the Lord’s Day on Sunday. At the head of every week, we remember that Jesus rose from the dead.
Pope Benedict XVI once pointed to some historical evidence that ancient Christian altars faced the rising sun in symbolic remembrance of the Rising Son.
It is true that life is hard and Christ took on all the horror that the world has to offer. While we live in this Vale of Tears, it is easy to be convinced of the reality of the Passion, but the reality of the Resurrection can sometimes seem far away. Suffering is a universal experience to which anyone can relate. Fr. Benedict Groeschel once said that he has never been resurrected, but he had been to Calvary several times.
But without the Resurrection, the cross is pointless.
We don’t end the story on Good Friday. That was the mistake of the disciples who fell into fear and depression. Even though the Master told them that He would return after three days, they doubted. Sometimes we may look down on them for doubting His words after all of the signs He gave them. But don’t we do the same thing?
Jesus provided the proof of His words by rising from the dead. He promises this to us as well. Do we doubt?
As I wrote a few weeks ago, the history of the world may be a long defeat. But it will end in ultimate victory for God and those on His side. Do we truly believe this? Are we confident in this?
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things out there that are not of God. We have the pandemic still causing great distress to the physical, emotional, and psychological health of the world. We have great atrocities still being committed by tyrannical governments. We have a cancel culture that is waiting to raise the digital mob into a frenzy to destroy anyone who stands against whatever modern society holds sacred. We have a Church that is constantly attacked and persecuted from without and who also is dealing from festering corruption within. Economic woes seem to be on the rise. Religious rights are under attack. More and more people in this country are rejecting the Christian faith. The family itself is being undermined and basic truths of human nature are being exchanged for convenient politically correct lies.
All of this is happening right now. These are real problems to which we cannot turn a blind eye. We have a responsibility to speak truth to power and witness against all manner of evil and corruption in the world. But as the darkness grows, do we truly believe that God is still in control?
I often think of the Apostles being battered around by the storm, terrified that their story would end in tragic death. When Christ calmed the winds, He chastised them for having little faith. When we see the storms of evil mentioned above, do we think that our story will also end in tragedy?
To be sure, there will be great injustices in dark days. To stand against the forces of this world is like standing on the shore trying to hold back the tide. The waves may knock some of us over and draw us out to sea. But even then, do we trust that God is in control?
I’ve written before about St. Mark Ji Tianxiang. He was an opium addict and was forbidden from receiving the sacraments. But when Christians in his area were rounded up and given the choice between martyrdom or apostasy, he welcomed the chance to lay down his life. That was because St. Mark was a man of Easter. The chains of addiction weighed him down. But he knew that he would be set free in the next life. When he is resurrected, he will have left those old afflictions and addictions behind.
What afflicts you? What sin or struggle weighs you down?
Can you see beyond these frightful things to the new life waiting for you on the other side? I know that I struggle with this. My worldly anxieties sometimes darken my vision. No matter how many times He has delivered me from my fears, I am like the disciples hiding in the upper room after the crucifixion, unsure and unsteady. But I have to remind myself that my story will not end at the cross but with my own empty tomb.
In practical terms, this means I must not speak fatalistically. This age may be dark, but this too shall pass. I must take a stand against the evils of the world with the assurance that God’s side will win. We must trust not to our own power and strength, but to the love of God and its power.
Being an Easter people means that we take up our crosses with courage because we know that we will lay them down afterwards and we will be raised up in glory. Being an Easter people means fighting cheerfully for what is right, even if you don’t see the victory in this world. Being an Easter people means standing up in front of the world and saying that there is hope beyond this darkness.
Being an Easter people means reflecting the light of the Rising Son.
Copyright 2021, WL Grayson