Easter: Faith, hope and love

Easter Sunday | Jn 20:1-18

Within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, there is a very small structure known as the Edicule. As far as archaeologists and historians can tell, this tiny chapel houses the remains of the tomb in which Jesus was placed after he died. The Edicule recently went through a major restoration in which was uncovered the original stone ledge on which the body of Jesus was placed. If you’re interested, National Geographic made an excellent documentary of the process. When I was studying for a few months in Jerusalem, I had the opportunity to celebrate Mass in this incredible space. In spite of the early Mass time (5:30!), it was an incredible experience. While there, I was struck by the fact that I was in the very place where the dead body of Jesus was placed. Of this, I could be quite certain. I was in the place where, in the Gospel today, the beloved disciple entered, saw that the body of Jesus was gone and believed that Jesus had rose from the dead. While in the tomb early in the morning, I began to question myself. Although I knew that this was the place where Jesus was placed after his death, did I, like the beloved disciple, really believe that Jesus rose again? This was a harder question for me to answer. It is a question we can all ask ourselves this Easter morning.Edicule (source)Having faith in the Resurrection of Jesus is not always an easy thing to do, yet there are reasons why I continue to believe. Believing in the Resurrection can be difficult at times. It is not as though there is security footage that records the event happening! There are, however, reasons why I believe. I believe because of the testimony of the apostles who claimed to witness the risen Jesus. Peter and the others – who were so afraid when Jesus was crucified that they all fled – gave their lives for the message that Jesus rose from the dead. I believe because of the holiness of the saints, the Christians who have lived and continue to live lives of extraordinary service and love. These saints (whether they be the famous ones or those who live their lives in obscurity) give me hope. They fill me with faith that the Risen Christ lives in them. I believe because I have experienced some small part of the life Jesus comes to bring. I have experienced his forgiveness and love. I have been inspired by his words I read in the Gospel. What are the reasons why you believe in the Resurrection? Believing in the Resurrection of Jesus is not easy, but there are reasons to believe.

When we have faith in the Resurrection of Jesus, it leads us to have a sense of hope as we go through life. This hope is founded in the trust that God will fulfill the promises that he made to us in Jesus. Just as God raised Jesus from the dead, thereby conquering sin and evil, so he will be victorious over all the evil and troubles of our current age and raise each of us up on the last day. This hope is important because there are times when life can seem dark. Personal struggles with health, finances or relationships can contribute to this darkness. The world can also seem like a dark place when we see the various problems and evil in our world. The wars and terrorism. Politicians’ rhetoric which demeans the value of human life, whether it be of the unborn, the aged, the immigrant, the poor and those of other religions, cultures and backgrounds. The hope we have that is grounded in the Resurrection should fundamentally influence how we confront this darkness. Recently, I heard a Bishop describe it this way (Bishop Caggiano). There are two times in each day when it is dark: at dusk, when the day is ending, and at dawn, when a new day is breaking. When we see darkness, each of us needs to decide where we want to stand, in the dusk or in the dawn. When we have faith in the Resurrection, we choose to stand in the dawn. We choose not to focus only on the darkness but on the light that has dawned with the Resurrection of Jesus and the goodness that we can see all around us if we are looking. Faith in the Resurrection leads us to live in the dawn. It makes us people of hope.

Praise the Lord

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Now you know the end of the story

Easter Vigil

“I just wish I knew how the story ended”. These words were said to me by a man who was going through a difficult time in his life. So much seemed to be going wrong for him. The uncertainty about how things would work out in the future caused him a great deal of anxiety and fear. “I wish I knew how the story ended”. Although we have perhaps not said exactly these words, the sentiment is probably something we have all felt and expressed. People with health problems wonder how things will turn out. Students struggling to get into their school of choice worry about whether they will be accepted or not. Those in relationships that are strained worry that things may never improve. Individuals looking for work wonder if their search will ever be successful. “I wish I knew how the story ended”. How would our life change if we knew the end of our story?

Throughout the various readings of the Easter Vigil, we get the chance to hear the incredible story of God’s interaction with humanity throughout the ages and we discover anew that ultimately God, love and life wins in the end. When I was younger, I really got into reading long stories that were split up over a series of books: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Narnia series and the Harry Potter series. I was amazed at how the plot of these books progressed with its various ups and downs and ultimate climax. I admired the creativity of the authors who could fashion these incredible stories with such creativity and planning. One reason why I find the Bible so interesting and beautiful is because of the incredible story that we find there. Although the Bible is incredibly diverse, composed over thousands of years, in various languages and genres and expressing a variety of viewpoints, there is a unity in the Bible as it tells the drama of the relationship between God and humanity. The plot of this story is full of ups and downs. During the readings of the Easter Vigil we heard some highlights of the story. After creating this good world, God made humanity in his image to be in a relationship with him and steward creation. Although God is always faithful to this relationship, humanity sometimes turns their back on God. Time and again, however, God brings humanity back to himself and liberates them from their enemies, as in the Exodus from Egypt. Through the prophets, God promised an ultimate liberation and victory from all that oppressed his people. To accomplish this, he sent his beloved son, who revealed the depths of God’s love and died to save us. As we heard in the Gospel, hate and death did not have the last word. As the men announced to the surprised woman in the Gospel, he has risen! With the apostles who came to the empty tomb, we should stand in amazement at the ending of the story that plays out between God and his people over the centuries: God, love and life wins!Resurrection, RaphaelWhen we were baptized in water, we enter into the incredible story of salvation. At baptism, the story of God’s interaction with humanity becomes our story. The victorious ending of that story becomes the victorious ending of our story. At the Easter Vigil, we renew our baptismal promises and are sprinkled with the newly-blessed water. It is fitting that we enter into the story of salvation through water. Water, that basic element of life, flows through the story of salvation that we heard in the readings like an unbroken stream. Over and over, God creates, saves and renews humanity through water. In the creation account in Gen 1-2, the world starts as water. God makes dryland for his creation by separating the waters. At the climax of the Exodus event (Ex 14-15), God saved the people of Israel from the pursuing Egyptian army by allowing Israel to pass through the waters of the sea and having the waters cover their enemies. Through the prophet Isaiah (Isa 55), God invites everyone who thirsts to “come to the waters”. Here, God promises a future full of life and hope to his people who have been exiled in Babylon. To the prophet Ezekiel (Ezek 36), God declares that he will “sprinkle clean water” upon his people, cleansing them from their sins and renewing his relationship with them. The theme of water runs all the way to Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he tells us how, through the waters of baptism, we are united not only with Jesus’ death, but also with his resurrection. Through the waters of baptism, we are linked forever to Jesus and his victory. Therefore, the end of our own story will also be victorious as it concludes with our own resurrection.

Praise the Lord

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