By BISHOP JOEL M. KONZEN, S.M. | Published April 19, 2022 | En Español
There is joy to be found in both Christmas and Easter, in the Incarnation and the Resurrection of the Lord. Our Christian faith calls on us to honor both as pivotal events. In our culture, though, Easter has a much lower profile than Christmas. Some would say that this is a good thing because it allows us to concentrate on the spiritual significance of the Easter celebration and not to be distracted by the overarching secular trappings that come with Christmas. But this lower profile does mean that, for many Catholics, Easter is a brief stop in church for a well-dressed Sunday. Can we savor the great moment in our faith history long enough to experience the joy that it brings?
The joy of Easter is found in our reliving the experience of the women at the tomb on Easter morning, where an angel greets them—“He is not here. He has been raised as he said!” During Holy Week we have entered into the searing agony of Jesus’ passion, in which he suffers as an innocent, like so many who suffer today as innocents in Ukraine, Guatemala, Nigeria and other places. We are reminded that children and their well-meaning parents and grandparents are often victims of corruption and the misuse of power, people who use their might for self-serving ends. With these victims we pray for an end to the mistreatment and abuse of the powerless and innocent by those who cause their suffering.
Then, despite the ways that humans make other humans hurt, our Lord, who has been stabbed and scourged and nailed to a wooden cross, is lifted up in glory by his heavenly Father, to signal to the world that we do not suffer forever, that we do not suffer in vain. There is a triumph seen in the glorious resurrected body of our Christ, and that brings joy to us in itself. Our savior lives! Our savior reigns! But the rising from death and desertion, from desolation and anxiety, also announces an expectation that even earthly suffering, the malice that one person, one nation forces on another, can be transformed by acts of love inspired by God the Father’s unbounded love for his Son and for all whom Jesus has called to be his own.
Thus, our joy at this great moment for our faith and our very life is twofold: we rejoice with Christians everywhere—our family, our church, our friends, all people of good will—that Christ is raised from the dead, in which is his promise that we too can rise above our certain death and attain life that belongs to those who will be raised in him on the last day. Secondly, we rejoice because the new life that follows on the heels of the resurrection gives birth to a hope that those who are baptized into Christ are baptized into his resurrection. Because of that, we can have confidence that the day of our Lord’s justice will yet prevail over the craftiness and evil that is the cause of so much earthly struggle.
Easter allows us to pause and praise the God of our deliverance. Sin, which is always with us, will not have the last word, does not condemn us forever if we acknowledge the risen Christ as redeemer and repent of our unfaithfulness.
As is said in the final words of a Shakespeare sonnet: “Death, thou shalt die!” And as we celebrate the freeing from sin and death that the risen Lord proclaims, we ask the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, to have mercy on us. His mercy is the ultimate sign of love that allows us to hope.
One of the church’s Easter hymns says, “He has torn the sheep from the jaw of the wolf.” In our world there are many sheep in the jaws of wolves. We pray that our Lord’s saving power will deliver us from evil forever.