Reflection for Easter
St. John 20;8-9
More and more Christians today are finding themselves in a strange and unfamiliar world. Things that were once held to be right and self-evident are no longer so. Coercion now replaces freedom, bigotry replaces tolerance, and morality and history are turned upside down. It is the “brave new world” that many Christian leaders like Pope John Paul II anticipated decades ago, has arrived and we can see that it has become as he predicted, a “culture of death”.
Christianity is above everything else a faith that Jesus Christ overcame death. “We are buried with him by baptism into death” writes St Paul; “that as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, to set our feet upon the new path of life” [Romans 6;4]. By his resurrection, humanity is offered a unique life giving anthropology of harmony and love.
For a very long time there has been a sustained attempt by the dominant atheistic humanism, to kill off the God of the Bible who they believed kept mankind in bondage. Without this God it would be possible to establish the true scale of human greatness. The result however is fast becoming clear to see, that the destruction of God results in the destruction of mankind itself. Within societies that have dethroned God, confusion and isolation are everywhere. Freedom to speak about deeply held beliefs is now dangerous. History is trashed, family life and parenting undermined and very young children subjected without parental consent to new age propaganda likely to harm them. These are just a sample of concerns that have come to dominate the brave new world we inhabit.
Christians rejoice in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, for he is the foundation of our faith and the reason why we must resist the ungodly developments that are sweeping through western societies. We depend on the eyewitness accounts of the first visitors to the sepulchre who saw and believed that the Lord had trampled down death and all that death means. The resurrection provides us with the hidden strength to overcome self-centeredness and empowering koinonia, which is that sacrificial love for others revealed by the Lord Jesus.
When we see the self-inflicted damage brought about by the enemies of God that now dominates daily living, we can also see more clearly how the presence of Christ into the human world begins to make good sense. Ignatius of Antioch said, “it is because of the resurrection that Jesus Christ who returned to the Father appears more clearly”. Jesus was born into a world of darkness and murder; he faced rejection from religious and political leaders who made every effort to silence him and finally resorting to corruption and vicious lies to put him to death. The New Testament Gospels trace the course of raw evil taking hold of the Lord’s enemies and the depths to which ungodly human behaviour can descend. All of this is increasingly familiar in what we once supposed was our more civilised modern world, but is in fact the same old story of fallen humanity re-establishing itself in every age.
Can people do anything to avoid the hell of the culture of death? The answer is “Christ is Risen” a proclamation that the world of evil, death and despair has been transformed into a realm of goodness, life and hope that brings new power and vision for the unity of humanity. Wherever the risen Christ is found in the world, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are also present – humility – gentleness – longsuffering – temperance and love.
Christianity is the religion of the Resurrection, for as St. Paul writes “If Christ is not Risen, our faith is in vain”. The Resurrection is not just about coming back to life but about a new order that can only take place by renewal and transfiguration of mankind, “the people who walk in darkness need to see a new light”. The resurrection heralds a new start, turning away from the self and consideration of others. This is a new homeland in which life and goodness, kindness and love (caritas) become the enduring and eternal characteristics replacing death, corruption, jealousy, and self-centeredness.
Thanks be to God, Christ is Risen indeed.
Fr. Geoffrey Neal