Easter, Expanded

“Of this we are witnesses.”

The “amazement and astonishment” (Acts 3:10) which characterized the first Easter continue in circumstances few could’ve imagined just over a month ago. A small Episcopal congregation in Fort Collins, CO discovered a creative way to tell the good news from lockdown. Recording in advance, one mom had two children hide in the living room. She called out, “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” Then the two littles popped up, yelling with excitement, “The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!” All giggled and did it again; other church members shouted an echo.

Hardly the Mormon Tabernacle choir, but the same heart-felt message that resonated through Tolstoy and Dostoevsky: “Resurrexit sicut dixit. Alleluia.” Broadcasting from his home, Richard Rohr reminded us that it’s not only the good news of spring and Easter bunnies or of one man’s experience. What is true for Jesus is true for us all—death may change a life, but not end it. Such words of hope are sorely needed as the world-wide death toll rises.

On April 12, the New York Times reported that over 100 priests have died in Italy, trying to offer last rites and consolation from a threshold, drawing crosses with black markers on their protective gowns. They regret that often the last touch people feel is a gloved one, the last face they see is on screen.

A doctor at Stanford has tried to reduce the fear of patients meeting health care workers shrouded in masks and plastic gear. She and others like her slip a photo of themselves, smiling, into a plastic sleeve worn around their necks. At least then the sick patient can focus on the reassurance of a human face.

Michael Jordan Laskey reflected in Give Us This Day April 13 that two different fears met the news of the risen Jesus. The chief priests and elders felt their power threatened, so they tried to bribe, lie, and cover up the disturbance. The women, on the other hand, were “fearful yet overjoyed.” They didn’t run away; they approached the risen Jesus and embraced the source of their confusion.

Can we, as well, lean into the current crisis and tragedy, to learn what it can teach? Julian of Norwich, who endured the 14th century plague, reminds us that we are made not only “by God,” but “of God.” She barely mentioned social upheaval, but wrote instead about the “extraordinarily peaceful, powerful meaning of the love of the one who wants to speak to us, who is entirely without wrath, and because of the serenity of whose power we need be afraid of nothing at all.”[1]

[1]
[1] James Alison, Undergoing God (New York: Continuum, 2006), 31-2.

See “Everyday Resurrections” by Kathy Coffey in April issue of St. Anthony Messenger: https://blog.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit/everyday-resurrections-a-meditation-on-easter

 

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