Fr. T. C. Joseph Sdb
Bosco B.Ed. College, Dimapur
Christianity was born in the grave. A plant that sprouts in the fire does not fade in the sunlight; and that which is born in the tomb does not disintegrate at death. Easter powerfully proclaims: “you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.’ The day of the resurrection is the birthday of our Christian faith. It is the celebration of the death of death, the beginning of life eternal. Easter is the good news, which has forever changed the course of history and provided inspiration for countless millions throughout the world. It is the conquest of the ultimate enemy of life – death. Victory over ultimate annihilation, the resurrection is a mystery of faith, which speaks of another far more wonderful mystery – that of the love of God incarnated in the mystery of Jesus.
If Christmas is the gift of love, Easter is the gift of life. The feast of Christmas did not even exist for the first two centuries of the Church’s life! But Christianity is inconceivable without Easter. Easter is a divine act that has happened in human history, in space and time. The birth of Christ inaugurated a new history while his rising from the dead installed a new hope. Resurrection is beyond the calculation of all reason and knowledge, beyond the boundary of reality. It belongs at once to the realm of the spirit and matter, superseding all human reason and imagination. Neither a Da Vinci Code nor a dozen of Dan Browns can ever fade the fact of this truth – the truth of this faith. Churches may be destroyed, crucifixes may be removed, and Christians may be tortured or even be martyred; but the true faith of Christians can never be erased or shaken by anything that is earthly, neither by a mother of all bombs nor by the father of all destructions…for it is a faith born of having been shaken – like the faith of Moses, Abraham, Job, Peter, Paul, and the like…
The resurrection is supposed to renew the whole world. However, this doesn’t ‘seem’ to be the case often. Ours is a wounded history and we live in difficult times. We have only to watch the news on any given evening or read it at any morning. If there is an all-knowing, all powerful, all loving God who is the Lord of this universe, his renewing presence isn’t very evident on the evening news and the morning newspapers. There is violence all over, fuelled on every side by self-righteous ideologies that sanction hatred and bloodshed – death and destruction – along cultural, racial, ethnic and religious lines. Life seems to be threatened from every side. It is fair and reflective to wonder: Are we becoming more afraid of life than death? Where is the resurrection in all these? Why is God seemingly so inactive, so silent? Where is the vindication of Easter Sunday?
These are important questions, even if they aren’t particularly deep or new. They are the echoes of the very questions used on first Good Friday to taunt Jesus on the cross: “If you are the Son of God, come down off that cross! If you are God, prove it at once! Act now!” Then and now, it seems, we have never figured out why salvation can’t work like a normal movie where at the end, a morally superior violence kills off or avenges all that is evil.
Except God doesn’t work like a Hollywood or Bollywood movie and never has. The God of our faith is truly a God of surprises! God, as revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, doesn’t meet our expectations even as he infinitely exceeds them. What the resurrection teaches is that God doesn’t forcibly intervene to stop tragedy and death.
Instead he redeems tragedy and vindicates the death. God rids the world of evil not by using force to blot it out, but by vindicating what’s good in the eyes of evil so that eventually the good is all that’s left. Evil has to forever “look upon the one whom it has pierced!” until it understands what it has done and lets itself be transformed. How does this come about?
What the resurrection of Jesus reveals is that there is a deep moral structure to the universe, that the contours of the universe are love, goodness and truth and that this structure, anchored at its centre by Ultimate Love and Supremacy, is non-negotiable: You live life its way or it simply won’t come out right. More importantly, the reverse is also true: If you respect the structure and live life its way, what is good and true and loving will eventually triumph, always, despite everything. If this is true, and it is, then we don’t have to escape suffering and death to achieve victory, we have only to remain faithful, good, and true inside of them.
However, part of what is revealed here is that we need a great patience, an endurance called hope. God’s day will come, but God, it seems, is not in any hurry!
Good and truth will always triumph, but this triumph must be waited-for, not because God wants us to endure pain as some kind of test, but because God, unlike ourselves, doesn’t use coercion or violence to achieve an aim. God uses only love, truth and goodness, and God uses these by, structurally and non-negotiably, embedding them into the universe itself, like a giant moral immune-system that eventually, always, brings the body back to health. God doesn’t need to intervene like a super-hero at the end of a Hollywood movie and use a morally superior violence to wipe out the bad ones so that the good are spared pain and death and the evil ones are avenged. God lets the universe replenish itself the way a body does when it is attacked by a virus. The immune system eventually does its work, even if, in the short term, there is pain and even death. But always in the end, the universe rights itself.
Simply put: whenever we do anything wrong, anything at all, it won’t turn out right. It can’t. The structure of the universe won’t receive it and it comes back to us, one way or the other. Conversely, whenever we do something right, anything that’s true, good, loving, and beautiful, the universe vindicates that. It judges our every act and its judgment allows no exceptions.
Perhaps that judgment doesn’t seem to be immediate; it can seem a long time in coming and thus, for a time, we can be confused and ask the question: “Why doesn’t God, truth and goodness, come down off the cross?” Gandhi’s own words might be encouraging at such trying times: “When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been murderers and tyrants, and for a time they seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it, always.” It was Gandhi’s adamantine faith that without a single exception, always, evil is shamed and good triumphs. The resurrection works – gently, but definitely, in its own way, and in its own time! Let the Easter festival give us the courage to carry on, in goodness and truth.