A Sunday School teacher asked her class of eight-year-olds to write a composition titled, “What Easter means to me.” One youngster wrote: “Easter means egg salad sandwiches for the next two weeks.”
What does Easter mean for you? We know there is no Easter without a Good Friday, no life without death, no morning light without darkness. And we do know darkness in our own recent history: this year alone there have been 131 mass shootings with four or more people killed this year. Last year, the total was 647 in our country. These are epidemic numbers!
It’s easy to become convinced of the power of death. When I think of the friars we lost to death this year, I miss them and am sad. When I look at the actuarials that face us in our province, I can become afraid. During Lent, I recognize that it’s not mass shooters alone who have the problem, but I have colluded with the darkness. I have been the one who has betrayed, denied and run. Still, Easter stands as testimony: Death and darkness are not the end of the story. And even my participation in it is forgiven by the One who held my feet and washed them.
Easter means for me to experience the personal forgiveness of our Risen Lord, and to look at our world through the lens of the angels who admonish the disciples to look at the spot where they laid Him: “He is not here. He is Risen!” It means in the face of the epidemic of mass shootings, and the many genuine tragedies that occur in ordinary life, all we will find buried in the tomb is the fear, hatred and arrogance.
We no longer cling to our own Christian skin. We are the baptized, commissioned to testify to a whole world around us that is looking for the living one among the dead that He is not there. We become witnesses in our ordinary worlds. When people see their father or mother on their deathbed and say, “We shall see each other again in the kingdom,” it is an act of faith in the Resurrection. Every newly married couple, every newly professed religious, is an act of faith in the Resurrection. Every young people’s march that defiantly demands a change in our gun laws is an act of faith in the Resurrection. All the meek who strongly serve in our soup kitchens is an act of faith. When you forgive your enemy, when you defend the weak, when you plant tulip and daffodil bulbs in the fall, you believe in the Resurrection.
That’s what Easter means to me: That darkness does not have the last word, that the Risen Lord forgives and heals, that He commissions you and me to be joyful His missionary disciples. It’s better than egg salad sandwiches!
–Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM