Easter and human life
At Easter, we celebrate the passage of Christ from this world through death to the glory of eternal life. We hail Jesus as our Lord and Master, our champion who triumphed over the grave. Jesus now reigns on high. We honour him; we adore him.
However, Easter is not only a statement on the triumph of Jesus and his glorification at the end of a life of self-sacrifice and dedication to all that is good and loving. Easter is a loud call for the disciples of Christ to follow the path that he has taken. Easter is a call for Christians to enter the struggle of Christ for goodness and justice and like him to promote a world where love prevails.
The celebration of Easter is the proclamation and publication of a road map for the world. The Church presents the way of Christ as the only way that is worthy of the dignity of man. It is a path which we are all called to follow.
The pity is that we, Christians, often regard Easter as no more than a grand celebration. We have a love for feasts, for celebrations. Religious celebrations tend to be regarded as no more than cultural observances. They appear merely to deliver us from the monotony of daily life.
But we need to allow ourselves to be led much further than that. Easter should be regarded as a pause, a sort of holiday, a break from the usual concerns of daily living to make space for the consideration of the meaning of life. What we are called to is a radical reflexion on our lives and on our relationship with our fellow-men.
We need to pause, listen and think. We need to make that kind of aggressive criticism of the life of worldliness that we might be living. There is the call for us to interiorize the ideals that we claim to espouse.
Easter should be a landmark. It should be regarded not only as a landmark in the life of Jesus. It must be a landmark in our lives. This may well call for a death in our lives to all that we have held dear up to this moment. It may mean a conversion. This is how one spiritual writer, St. Basil, puts it:
When runners reach the turning point on a racecourse, they have to pause briefly before they can go back in the opposite direction. So also when we wish to reverse the direction of our lives there must be a pause, or a death, to mark the end of one life and the beginning of another.
A complete change of life, a radical reversal of the direction of our lives, a basic renewal of our approach to the world in which we live is an extremely difficult matter. Many people recognize their failings and shortcomings. They regret them. They would like to bring about a change in their lives. But they do not realize how difficult it is and what stringent measures must be undertaken. They may espouse noble ideals. But they fail to live by the truth. They do not take the bull by the horns!
Easter is for us, Christians, a tremendous breakthrough. It is an empowerment. It is raising men and women above themselves. It is lifting them to a higher level of existence. It is lifting up their sights to new visions, new mountain-tops and new horizons. It is a revolution of the Spirit. It is an explosion of love in a forlorn world.
All this implies an immense challenge for mankind. It is a loud call against selfishness, sensuality, injustice, crookedness and corrupting pursuits. It is an opening up to all that is loving and beautiful. It is a giant renewal of earth. It gives us hope for a new world built on the self-sacrificing spirit of Christ the Lord.
Easter is not merely an event of a long time ago. It is a mystery of life, lived by Jesus Christ, renewed yearly for our salvation. It is the repeated offer to all mankind of a new way of life. It is the dawn of a new age.
Many years ago, someone came to me on Holy Saturday to have recourse to my priestly ministry. "I have come to you," the person said, "because I believe in the Resurrection." This is at the heart of the Easter mystery. Easter is for us a renewal and transformation of life or it is nothing at all!