‘LET US BE EASTER PEOPLE’ - Message for Easter by CCCB President
Life is stronger than death! This is the fundamental conviction of my Christian faith. It is based on a fact: Jesus’ disciples were radically transformed only a few days after his death.
Let’s put ourselves in their place. The one in whom they had hoped has died, and his death was shameful. Accused of encouraging revolt against the government, Jesus was tortured, publicly humiliated, and crucified like a most vile criminal. A phrase from the Jewish Scriptures must have haunted them: “Anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (Deuteronomy 21.23).
The one they had believed to be God’s Prophet now seems cursed by God. They were convinced he would restore the kingdom of Israel – but once again the Roman Empire proves all powerful. They believed that the future ages would be transformed by him, but now they are mocked by never-ending sadness and futility.
Is it surprising they fled to avoid being taken with him? That Judas took his own life? That Peter, their leader, even denied knowing him? That they hid themselves in sorrow and despair?
What happened just a few days later to bring about such a radical change in them? Jesus’ death had made them fearful; now they are full of courage. They had gone into hiding; now they preach in public. They had been dispersed, each to his separate way; they now come together for prayer and the breaking of the bread, united in unbreakable solidarity.
They say they encountered the risen Christ. In this intimate meeting, they discovered that God is greater than their own hearts. Their encounter filled them with grace, peace, forgiveness and love. This visitation sent them on a mission to the whole world to continue Jesus’ work, and to proclaim to everyone his kingdom of justice, peace and joy (Romans 14.17).
They say they met the risen Christ, and everything changed: for them, for me, for you. In the Resurrection, we also discover that life is stronger than death, that love triumphs over hate, that forgiveness heals every wound. In Jesus’ resurrection, we too discover our mission – to collaborate with the Spirit of God in transforming the world. Easter invites us to share the grace, the peace, the forgiveness and the love the Apostles knew the morning of the Resurrection.
Chocolate rabbits and Easter eggs make us smile and give us pleasure. But they are only tiny echoes of the profound joy the Risen Christ wants us to share, the eternal love with which he satisfies our deepest hungers. Renewed in his life, his love and his forgiveness, let us, like his first disciples, give ourselves, give our all. Let us be Easter people!
Archbishop of Gatineau and
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
17 April 2014