From the Director - Easter hope

At Easter, we celebrate and adore our God, who refused to leave Jesus buried in the tomb's darkness. Jesus suffered a violent death, but God did not allow Jesus to be the permanent victim of other people's violence. During Easter we remember God's great act of raising Jesus from the dead.

In the first century of Christianity, there were many views about what happened to people when they died. Some people believed that death was just the end. Some people believed the righteous dead would rise at the close of the age. Others believed that the souls of the just went to live with God. Some people believed in reincarnation. When Jesus asked the disciples, "Who do people say I am?", they said Jeremiah or one of the prophets back from the dead.

Here is what is fascinating about the accounts of Jesus' resurrection. None of these familiar understandings about what happens after you die is invoked.

The first witnesses of the resurrection believed that Jesus, who had been crucified and buried, was alive again through the power of God. It wasn't his soul that was alive. It was his body that was alive. The event's very novelty gave such power and strength to the first Christian proclamation. The first witnesses claimed that something new and profound had happened for the first time, and nothing would be the same again.

In the time of Jesus, order in society came through violence, through the empire of Rome, its army, and the harsh punishment of those who opposed the empire. The most terrible punishment was the cross. It was always carried out in public to deter others from opposing the empire. It was on one of those Roman crosses that Jesus was put to death.

When the risen Jesus appears to his disciples, we are told they were terrified. They might have been afraid because they saw a dead body risen from the dead or because they thought Jesus was back for vengeance. But the resurrection story is different. After showing his wounds to his disciples, the risen Jesus says to his friends: "Peace be with you." The teacher who taught his disciples to confront violence with forgiveness expressed his own teaching in the most vivid way possible. The risen Jesus came to bring peace, not vengeance. He confronted violence with forgiveness.

When we look at our world today, suffering and violence continue to disfigure many people. Millions of refugees are fleeing war torn countries seeking safety, shelter and food. They cry out for understanding, support, and welcome.

The challenge of Easter today is to take God's part in protesting against the violence and the suffering in our world. Death is not just something we meet at the end of life. We see death all around us amid life. There is the economic death of people starving to death; the political death of the oppressed people; the social death of those marginalized in society; the death of the unborn child and those on death row; the death of our environment and the extinction of species; the soundless death of the person who says and does nothing.

Having faith in the resurrection challenges us to protest these deaths, act as God would act, and have the courage to stand up against the injustices we see. God acted and raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus did not raise himself. We, too, are called to act and raise ourselves and others from the death of oppression and abuse, from the death of apathy. The truth that God raised Jesus from the dead gives hope and help to all those who want that miracle repeated in the midst of life.

The resurrection didn't just happen once. We experience the resurrection every time we dare to stand up for our principles and our rights, and the rights of others. As Christians, we are hope-filled people. We live with Easter hope that empowers us to make a change for the better – for ourselves, our families, our community, our world, and our earth. This is the true sign that we believe in a God who raised Jesus from the dead.

Fr Trevor Trot-ter signature

Fr Peter O'Neill
Regional Director of Oceania
directoroceania@columban.org.au  

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