The reality of the Paschal Mystery is really about trusting that God willalways provide us what we need to move forward.
Easter Sunday, April 21
by Bernadette Gibson
To believe in the Resurrection means that we fall in love again with the Risen Lord, and remain in an intimate relationship with him. Easter is a reminder that apart from the Spirit we can do nothing. We cannot afford to simply be people “who were hoping.” Rather we must become hope, and we can do so only if we remain connected to Jesus. Friends, over the course of this Lent many members have shared with me that they are dismayed by their institution, broken hearted about what they see happening in the structures of our church. These are holy concerns and we need to continue to gather together in prayer and dialogue about these concerns. But what we must also do, starting with me, is to separate the concerns of the institution from our spiritual life and our Hope in the message of Jesus’ ministry. We have to get back to the center of our faith in Easter Joy!
Amidst the shadows of the passing day and the darkness that clouded the disciples’ spirit, the stranger brought a ray of light that rekindled their hope. “Stay with us,” they pleaded to Jesus. In the intimacy of the breaking of the bread, the disciples’ eyes were opened and they recognized the Risen One in their midst. How often do we turn to the Lord and plead, like the two on the road: “Stay with us!”The image of the human heart permeates all of the Easter Gospel stories.
One of the things that makes the stories of the first Easter so believable is just that sense of unexpectedness – the disciples don’t come to the empty tomb having really believed that their Lord would return from death, and now they find themselves in a disturbing new world where anything is possible; and so bright is the light in this new morning that even the familiar face of Jesus becomes unrecognizable. What was it like for those first few hours after the empty tomb had been found, after Mary Magdalene had delivered her breathless message? It must have been a period of alarming doubt, half hope, and half terror. Feelings I think many of us can relate to today.
God meets us right where we are, and in the ordinariness of our own lives, but we too have a responsibility to pause, to listen, and to open our eyes to see what God is asking of us. We are simply asked to do what Jesus did for his friends, which was sacrifice for them. We work late nights to support each other; we give up jobs to be with each other; we look away from our screens to look each other in the eyes; we clean up after each other, we laugh, we sit in silence, in sorrow, in solidarity with each other. Moreover, we do this with the aim of modeling the love of Christ, who sacrificed His life for all of us. There is something wild about Easter – a message that is untamed, difficult to water down or manipulate for one’s own purposes.
The joy of Easter is offered to affirm that whatever happens in an unpredictable world, there is a deeper reality where love and reconciliation are ceaselessly at work. A world in which we are able to live honestly and courageously with challenges constantly thrown at us. And on the first Easter morning, we are allowed to see, like those at the empty tomb, into the darkness for a moment where we find our world turned upside down, and yet joy is made possible. God’s work of resurrection – indeed God’s new creation – begins in our wounded world. His resurrection is not a disembodied spiritual reality for life after the grave; it bears the marks of His wounded life here and now, yet with new significance. We need to imagine God as a vine grower and gardener admiring us, proud of us. If we really believe that we are worthy of God delighting in us and rejoicing in us, then we have to delight and rejoice in ourselves – and in each other.
The Resurrection of Jesus is central to our faith and gives profound value to what we do in this world. The struggle for justice and mercy, the creation of beauty, the celebration of truth, and the creation of communities who act in kindness and forgiveness – all these matter, and they matter forever. Jesus challenges each of us, as He challenged the original listeners, to creative nonviolent resistance to injustice. Jesus was doing just what he was anointed to do. He was opening the eyes of those before Him to their racism and nationalism. He was trying to set them free of their captivity, reminding them that God’s love extends to everyone – and so should theirs. The point of the resurrection is that God’s last word is resurrection in the midst of our human, often-wounded lives now. But the gift of Resurrection, the joy of Easter, the reality of the Paschal Mystery is really about trusting that God will always provide us what we need to move forward. We trust that the stone will be rolled away and we will be able – somehow – to walk out into the light again – from death to new life!
Easter is a special time to celebrate this Paschal Mystery. May we look for ways every day to trust it and the God who makes it happen, the God who always provides covenant in our fears. Let us become a people of radical Christian hope. Let us place our faith in the Kingdom that is to come. Let us embrace our charge to collaborate with God in bringing that Kingdom about, in the here and now! Happy Easter! Alleluia!
Bernadette Gibson is the Director of Pastoral Care at Old Saint Patrick’s Church.