Earthquake damage at the Portsmouth Catholic Church
Earthquake damage at the Portsmouth Catholic Church

Next week more than one billion Christians around the world will celebrate Easter. Those of us who will participate in the celebration will once again stand in wonder of the power of the living God who died on the cross, rose from the dead and promised to save the world. Easter then is the essence of the Christian faith and, if you believe, the real reason for life on earth. There is no Christianity if there is no Easter in its purest form.

At Easter every year, Christians celebrate the resurrection, God raising His beloved Son from his earthly grave. But to many Christians, Easter symbolizes the fact that the majestic God can also work wonders to transform the most wayward life of the most terrible sinner. Jesus rising from the grave tells us if we live like Him, we too will one day rise from the grave and live for eternity.

The fascinating story will begin on Good Friday when Jesus Christ was crucified and buried. But lo and behold, when the women who followed Jesus awoke on Sunday morning to perform their ritual duty to Jesus they discovered an empty grave.

The Apostle Luke tells us that on the first day of the week at early dawn they would come to the tomb taking with them the spices they had prepared. Imagine their surprise when they found the stone that covered the grave rolled away from the entrance and the body of Christ missing.

Jesus had earlier predicted that He would have vacated the grave after three days. The faithful believed Him because they had faith that the mystery of the resurrection is part of a larger wondrous plan. Easter then is like rain on a parched field after a severe drought, the calm after the hurricane. Easter lifts Christians out of their daily frustrations of living; Easter brings freedom after one wanders lost in the forest of life. After the celebration of Easter, Christians become fully alive. This is what Easter is all about; this is what Christianity is all about.

It is a day, a period, when Christians are reminded of the power of God and his potential to transform lives. Hence, every day should be Easter because every day we need to hope that changes for the better will come through Christ no matter how dark the hour before the dawn.

But many Christians in Dominica lament the fact that Easter and the other religious holidays are now considered to be times to organise fetes and to have a good time. Carnival has just ended and it brought a time for fun and frolic when the excesses cloud the meaning of the occasion. Christians do the same thing at Christmas. That is why some religious people have suggested that the name of many Christian holidays should be changed to reflect the true meaning of the occasion. For example, the name Good Friday should be changed to Crucifixion Friday and Easter Monday to Resurrection Monday. The same could be said about carnival. It would seem that the Catholic Church, despite its concern of the debunciousness of event and the association with Church, has decided that carnival will remain on the traditional dates; that is, on the two days before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Catholic practice of Lent. But by whatever name, Easter will always be the occasion to remind Christians of the unrelenting darkness that seems to surround Dominica and the rest of the world. Every day we are bombarded with news of unbelievable violence, terror, famine and the scourge of diseases such as Ebola, AIDS, Zika as well as hunger and ignorance. So who can blame Christians who doubt their faith and wonder to themselves, or aloud, whether the God who rose from the dead on Easter Monday is alive or whether He has given up on this wicked world. In fact on April 8, 1966 Time Magazine published a very provocative cover that read: Is God Dead? The main article questioned the penchant of theologians of that period to write God out of the field of theology.

"The article looked in greater depth at the problems facing modern theologians, in making God relevant to an increasingly secular society," wrote Wikipedia. "Modern science had eliminated the need for religion to explain the natural world, and God took up less and less space in people's daily lives. The ideas of various scholars were brought in, including the application of contemporary philosophy to the field of theology, and a more personal, individual approach to religion."

Easter then is hope – that God is indeed alive and well, at least for those who believe and act on that belief.

"Is Jesus necessary for salvation? One of my best friends is Jewish. Am I going to see him in heaven? I think the answer is yes, but what does that mean for Jesus?" – Father Jim Martin, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage

Let every man and woman count himself immortal. Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection. Let him say not merely, "Christ is risen," but "I shall rise."
~Phillips Brooks