Sunday, April 12, 2020


We opened Holy Week last Sunday with the blessing of palms in the cloister followed by a procession. I couldn’t help sensing a certain reverberating echo of how we liturgically closed our Christmas Season on the Feast of the Presentation in the Temple over two months ago. We were in the same cloister blessing candles, followed by a procession. This connecting echo got me reflecting. Christmas is perhaps easier to celebrate than Easter. The images of Christmas - a star, shepherds watching their flocks, a baby lovingly swaddled by his mother - are vivid and vibrantly clear. You can almost grasp them, touch the baby, hear the angels singing. Now look at the images of Easter: grieving women, and earthquake, angels pushing stones around, and Jesus suddenly appearing and just as suddenly disappearing. And yet, Easter is the foundational Christian reality; the gospel accounts of the birth of the Savior came much later than the passion and resurrection accounts. Even so, Easter challenges us to believe in a way that Christmas doesn’t. It almost dares us to accept and acknowledge a love and a goodness that is greater than anything we could possibly imagine.

So, what is this unimaginable love and goodness? What is the good news of Easter? First of all, Easter is just a beginning. The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is the beginning. Jesus resurrection begins here but it doesn’t end here. The Easter story, the Easter reality continues. Maybe that’s why we have 50 days to let it sink in to our lives, our hearts and our minds. The good news of the Resurrection of Jesus started on that first Easter morning. But it didn’t end there by any means. From the earliest times, Christians believed that Jesus’ resurrection was only the first step in the unfolding of God’s loving salvific plan to establish the Kingdom, to bring about a new creation. In God’s Kingdom no evil would exist. Death would be overcome; Jesus’ resurrection was the first step in God’s saving action to eliminate evil, suffering, pain and death itself. This is why we sing “Alleluia.”

I think we have to admit that it is a difficult truth to accept. Maybe that’s why for many Easter remains a sort of poor step-sister to Christmas. Easter challenges us to +believe that God is really present in our world destroying evil, eliminating suffering and pain from our midst. This is a tough truth to swallow in any meaningful and life-changing way. This is part of what makes Easter faith challenging. Look at the violence and wars. Look at the misunderstandings, not only between countries but in our own families and faith communities. Look at the manipulation, self-interest and unresolved hurts that linger just below the surface. And here we are proclaiming that Jesus’ resurrection really makes a difference. How do we do this in our so-obviously broken and fractured world and lives? How do we swallow the difficult truth of Easter - that God really does have the last word? What difference does Easter really make?

St. Augustine comes to the rescue. He says, “Give me a lover, and you will understand the resurrection.” The truth of Easter, the truth of the resurrection can only be seen with the eyes of love. You can’t reason to it. You can’t argue to it. It is only from within a love relationship that it makes any sense at all; only when you accept that God loves you, personally and passionately, as a son or daughter; that God loves you with the same love that He loves His only begotten Son. Only then, when we accept this love as reality, can we begin to see clearly what can never be comprehended with our minds alone.

Both Mary’s in Matthew's gospel loved Jesus. That’s why came to the tomb in the first place. Their love for him didn’t die on Calvary. And that love is why they went quickly at the angel’s direction to tell his disciples. And that’s why they embraced Jesus’ feet and did him homage. It is from within the love relationship they shared with Jesus that they were able to accept and acknowledge a love and a goodness that was beyond their wildest dreams.

Have you ever noticed, either from your own experience or that of others related to you, how lovers overlook issues that seem very important to other people? Lovers are often challenged - “Isn’t she a little old for you? Doesn’t he bring a good deal of baggage into this relationship? Are you sure you want to get involved with someone like that?” When such questions are posed, lovers seem to respond in pretty much the same way - Yes, I know, but I love him; I love her. Believers use these same words, or variations of them, in trying to understand the truth of Easter. Can’t you see the violence and war and sickness in our world? Yes, but I believe in a God who is still establishing his Kingdom among us. Do I have my share of misunderstanding, stress, resentment and unresolved issues? Yes, but I believe God raised Jesus from the dead, and that this same God loves me and is my undying Hope. It is only when we accept God’s love for us and stand in that love that we, despite all the things that are wrong with our world and our lives, can perceive our God establishing the Kingdom. It is only when we stand in this love that we can really taste Easter and know for ourselves that love really does have the final word. Only then can we sing “Alleluia.”

For most of us the challenge of Easter faith was accepted for us by our godparents. Yet countless times throughout our lives we personally take up and accept that challenge for ourselves. And we do that again as we renew our baptismal promises. Christ is risen! Truly, he is risen! And he continues to rise in our lives and in our world. 

Christ and Saint Peter; the Resurrection; Christ and Mary Magdalen, Giovanni da Milano (Italian, born Lombardy, active Florence 1346–69), 1360s, Tempera on wood, gold ground, 9 3/4 x 24 7/8 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission. Excerpts from the Easter homily of Abbot Damian.