Easter blows us away with its surge of life, enthusiasm and joy. Coming with the shift from winter to spring in the northern hemisphere, what happens with Christ is reflected in nature, in the obstinate quality of all living things to not yield to winter.
Easter, spring and joy are no imperceptible small turning to a gradual new page, they are explosion from without and within: the deepest inner call in each one of us, to life, and life in abundance. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).
We all know darkness, failure, futility and shame. We know what it means to be bent double by the pain of disappointment, betrayal, loss and despair. We too have watched helplessly as loved ones drift away and die. We too have seen our most beautiful and lofty hopes flounder on the jagged shores of cynicism. We too have, at times, lost our way.
Jesus knew all this. The recent days’ narrations of the last days of Jesus’ life and passion capture all this and more. In his humanity, Jesus pretty much experienced it all in his flesh.
The journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, from Gethsemane to Golgotha are a veritable procession of human misery, scandal and tragedy. Yet, from the moment of the Last Supper onwards, Jesus, in his own body and life, transforms the Jewish Passover feast of liberation from slavery, into the conquest of the most limiting feature of human life: death.
The resurrection of Jesus is the narrative of hope, of relentlessly and religiously not giving up, of victory over insurmountable odds
The resurrection of Jesus is thus the narrative of hope, of relentlessly and religiously not giving up, of victory over insurmountable odds. It is the ultimate triumph of the inner goodness of creation, when God exclaims: “And He saw that it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Easter is the anointing of all of life as sacred and beautiful, and thus worthy of redemption. It proclaims that nothing, not even death and misery, are beyond God’s healing reach. Easter is now, the present tense, full of unbridled joy and mischief: “The saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15: 54).
Yet, in the plains and valleys of our lives this magnificent song of Easter often remains muted and unheard. The seeds of self-doubt, guilt, and unworthiness, wreak havoc with our hopes.
Even in the face of the biggest revelation of all, that Christ conquered death, we are consumed by doubt like Thomas, wracked with guilt like Peter, harrowed by despair like Judas, or blinded by anguish like Mariam of Magdala.
From the day of Easter, Jesus starts to do the rounds of Galilee, Emmaus, and Jerusalem, and his greetings address the incredulity, fear and shattered expectations of the downcast disciples.
Each time, the words of the Risen One resonate beyond the hardest of cenacle walls and over the dark night seas of Galilee:
Be not afraid
It is I
Peace be with you!
Fr Frankie Cini is regional superior of the Missionary Society of St Paul (MSSP) in Malta.