Friday, 6 April 2018

Why are we an Easter People?

I just realized I wrote a Maundy Thursday post and a Good Friday post, (actually two!) but not an Easter post! What is with that? What is the cross without the resurrection? Foolishness! Why would anyone sign up for just the Cross? The truth is that the Cross wasn't the end. We know that. Easter = new life/baby chicks hatching from chocolate Easter eggs/pictures of spring (which is not a thing in India)/ Easter messages on Whatsapp and Facebook. Easter sometimes feels so familiar, that it loses its freshness, and therefore its power in our lives. So what is Easter really about?

Some years ago I was serving as a volunteer in a small Catholic high school in the Philippines. Most of the kids struggled with the common sins of sexual promiscuity, pornography, impure relationships, and many of them were the victims of abuse and abandonment.

We were teaching religion in all the eight classes with kids aged 13-16. One day we started preparing them all for Confession. To our surprise, most of them hadn’t been for Confession since their first Confessions as little eight year olds. So we had the awesome task of telling them what it was about, why it mattered, and why it was worth it. They were beautifully open. We talked about different sins, and how they made us feel.

“How many of you want to be innocent again? Washed clean, brand new?”

They looked at me with open longing in their eyes. Who doesn’t want that chance? To go back to the innocence of childhood, free from the ugly stain of too many compromises with truth, goodness and beauty? To be free from the weariness and the cynicism of corrupted hearts and minds?

This is what Easter is about. This is what the Resurrection is about. It’s not just about sacrifice or suffering for the sake of suffering. It is the fruits or the effects of that sacrifice. If we will die with Christ, then we will also live with Christ! In a very real way, we are given a second chance. We can be new. We can become the men and women God has called us to be. It is not too late! There is HOPE.

“We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song!” said St. John Paul II Living the Paschal mystery means letting Jesus in, allowing him to prune and sanctify and scrape away the ugliness within. But we do it because we KNOW there is something good on the other side. We see glimpses of it now, flashes of glory and life and unadulterated joy. Little by little we see what He is making of us. It can be slow, but it is sure! We can be new! I have met so many people changed by this truth - that they are loved and they are salvageable. I am one of those people. People who know me best will agree. I am different! I am new! I am forever changed!

Our students in the Philippines all went for Confession that week. They came out of Confession with their faces lit up, pumping their fists, and crying for joy. We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song! The world is not dark and hopeless and destined for hell because Jesus through His death and resurrection has offered us all a second chance! At its core, this is what Christianity is about. We have a God of redemption and second chances.

The crucial point though is whether we choose to accept that chance every day or go back to our world-weary, cynical, hopeless existence. Easter season is a time of grace. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts!

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