Mk 16.1-8                 Gen Ex Is Ez  (AA 10.34,37-43)             Rom  2.6-11  (1Cor 5.6-8)

(Easter Sunday Masses: Rhyme Bible – “Jesus is Alive”)

A rich mix of readings sets the tone for this evening’s celebration, where we gather in faith for the culmination of our prayerful and reflective celebrations of the last days of Jesus, who lives beyond the suffering, humiliation, travesty and tragedy of the Cross, of which a  dark shadow has been cast across this time of watching and waiting.

Now I continue with my reflection on journalist and author Stan Grant’s article, on the significance of Easter, in the light of the troubled and fractured world in which we live.  On Good Friday I quoted him as saying that the loss of faith in a God of love and life, along with the tendency to just accept the banality of evil, without doing anything much to challenge or change the wrongs in our world, meant that things could only get worse. He sees a deeper meaning to life being brought through a faith that is lived and applied by those who profess faith in Jesus, as God coming among us, as one of us,  walking with us,  showing the way, and demonstrating that the Cross is not the fatalistic end of it all.

The Gospel accounts of the Easter event differ in detail, but all point to an almost mystical experience of the followers of Jesus, after the darkness and apparent failure of his mission when unjust judgement, condemnation and death followed. Now, though, here we are reflecting happily on the fact that we believe he is risen and his presence enduring with us, just as he had promised.  We could also say we see unhappily, that the message he proclaims, of love, peace, truth and justice is so lacking in so many ways in many parts of the world.

Whatever about the abuse of Christianity, and the distortions and misinterpretations of its message of love and peace throughout human history since Jesus, no-one can deny, that if it is taken to heart and applied in practice, then the world would certainly be a far better place than it is right now.  The trouble is, the message has so often been distorted by ignorance, prejudice, self-interest, and self-justification, with fear of the other, that is, those who are of different backgrounds, ethnicities, beliefs, faith traditions and practices. It is all just so wrong and clearly counter to the Gospel of Good News proclaimed by Jesus.  Yet, unfortunately,  these abuses continue today in so many ways.

Historian Tom Holland has written a book titled ‘Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World’, wherein he argues that “Western morality values and social norms are products of Christianity”, such that “Christianity has transformed not just the West, but the entire world.” Not all would agree, but his view is that there is a Christian origin for “human rights, socialism, revolution (presumably peaceful, in terms of radical change!), feminism, science and even the division between religion and the secular.”

Of course, the trouble is that much has gone wrong with the distortions of Christianity, considering the many conflicts over details of dogma, power, wealth, property, and personalities, with the great splits in Christian history reflected in human differences and misunderstandings, far removed from the spirit of the Beatitudes and the law of love, proclaimed by Jesus, throughout his public ministry.

No-one can question that these are the positive values by which Christians are called to live by, and which really apply universally to humanity, if this world is to be made a better place by our presence in it.  If we believe we are created in God’s image, then we are bound to live by these principles, even though we know we often fall short, but keep trying, with the assurance of forgiveness always present.

This is where the darkness and injustice of the Cross overshadows our lives when we face up to our own crosses, and see a world in which there is so much suffering and indifference, with the challenge for you and me to try to make sense of it all by reflecting on, and applying, the love and care proclaimed by Jesus, in our own lives.

It takes time to come to terms with faith in the Risen Jesus, as we see in the abrupt end of Mark’s Gospel today.  At first it seems surprising that the women run away in fear,  amazement and confusion.  Then the scripture scholars say that additions were made later to conclude Mark’s Gospel with several post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, to reassure readers that this was for real! The women’s initial reaction is only naturally human and understandable.  Only later did the reality to sink in, that Jesus lived. And in a number of these appearances, it took time to recognize that it was truly Jesus, who was present among them once more.

But it is not as if all of the problems are solved, now that we believe he is risen and has transcended the Cross. There is the task ahead for his followers to spread the Good News and establish Christian communities with a balance between worship and life, with faith expressed in prayer and ritual, but also connected to applying the principles of the Gospel in real life.

And so our lives go on, as we face the challenges and difficulties of our time.  We have a far greater awareness now of the web of life and our part in it, as interconnected with each other and the natural world around us, with a responsibility to protect and preserve it, not just to exploit the resources for our own selfish temporary benefit, and to the disadvantage of those who have less.

Faith in the Risen Jesus requires that we reflect his presence in the way we apply his teaching to the way we live and love, and that’s a lifelong project for all of us.

Stan Grant’s conclusion is worth quoting: “The cross is now ours to bear, to build a world worthy of God’s sacrifice and the risen Christ’s promise of hope. The suffering and miracle of Easter should return our eyes to the afflicted, to truth and justice. Where are you, God? I ask. God answers, ‘I am here, waiting for you.’

Finally I have a story for Easter speaking of the need for each of us to bring peace into our lives and our world.  It’s titled “A Boy Like Me” (by Libby Hathorn, illustrated by Bruce Whatley).

And so we turn to our loving God in faith and trust and hope as we celebrate Easter together.

john hannon                                                                                    31st  March  2024

View All