April 20, 2014 2 Comments
So it is here, the day of days! For those of us who have observed some Lenten practice, there is almost a mixed feeling – having acquired the habit of giving up something, and taking something on, the challenge is not to give both up. It is some index of the society in which we live that where for Christians this is the greatest day of the year, he secular world, not really knowing what to do with it, prefers Christmas, which is more easily coopted into a spendfest.
He is Risen. What does that mean to each of us? We can only answer for ourselves, although each of us is an integral part of what it means, because Jesus died for each of us. That, for me, is the truly awesome (in its real sense) part of the Easter message. As I prayed at the altar of repose on Thursday night, I knew that I’d have been one of those falling asleep in Gethsemane; on Good Friday amidst the funereal gloom of the Stations of the Cross, there was a sense that my sins were the stripes He bore; much as I flinched from them, it occurred to me to wonder whether I flinched so easily from occasions of sin? At the Easter Vigil last night, as the Church was bathed in light, there was that sense that all had now changed. It changed for us all when He said to the Father ‘thy will be done’; it can change for us when we follow His example.
I live in the UK, a particularly secular part of a secularising Continent; America has more of a sense of what this day means to mankind, and long may that be the case. For all the effects of the culture wars, America still has more Christians than anywhere outside of China, and Christianity is still vital. The shining city on the hill is no secular vision.
Yet, how divided we appear to the world. How unable to take on board His message that we should ‘be one’ and that it would be through our mutual love that we would show the world who our Lord was. We say much, but too often what we say to each other sounds to the listening world negative and limiting. Pope Francis was not saying we should not talk about sexual sins and abortion, indeed he has rightly said abortion is a dreadful crime against humanity, but he was reminding us that there is a media out there which will always take the chance to make us sound as though we are obsessed with negative – ‘do not do this’. Yet we are reminded, on this greatest of days, that Jesus’ formulation of the Law was a positive one:
“The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
If we think of ‘being good’ merely doing no harm, we miss the positive message of the Resurrection. Our love for each other is communicated in action, and if our actions to each other as Christians contradict the message of universal love He brought, then our witness is not only impaired; it is fruitless.
We love Him because He first loved us, though we are sinners. If He can love us, we can try, in His name, to love each other. As dear Dolly Parton sings, “He’s alive, and I’m forgiven, Heaven’s Gates are opened wide.”
A happy Easter to all Neo’s readers.