Easter Joy!

I LOVE spring!  Even in North Dakota where waiting for the weather to line up with the calendar demands keeping snow shovels handy, I still love spring.   It’s a time of new beginnings and freshness, a time of resurrection, and a time of the Easter season.   By now, New Year’s resolutions have either made their way into our lives or have gone missing.  But as Catholics, who needs New Year’s to make resolutions, when we have Lent and Easter?

It’s about love

If you’ve pushed yourself during Lent, Easter is an especially joyous time of celebration where you’ve worked to strengthen your spirit.  If you did not do so well during Lent, you can still rejoice in the risen Lord. Jesus died on the Cross for love of us and we can all celebrate His rising from the dead. Every day can be a new beginning when we turn our life over to God.

The crucifix is testimony to God’s love for us–a love like no other.  “For God so loved the world that he gave is gave his only son” (John 3:16).  There have been people who loved enough to die for others, but there is nothing like the love of God. He created us and became one of us and suffered and died on the Cross.  It would be hard to die for another, but we can’t begin to understand what it would be like to be taunted and tortured by your own creations.  The suffering of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, including suffering for the sins of all humanity for all time until the end of the world, is likely beyond our comprehension. 

If we had been there… 

On Holy Thursday and Good Friday, when contemplating Christ’s Passion—the jeers and torture; the lies and hatred spewed upon him—a desire often comes to me:  I wish to see the look on the faces of his torturers on their day of judgment. Not to in any way denigrate or downplay God’s judgment, but that thought often crosses my mind.  To those that spit on Jesus or drove in the nails and mocked him, imagine what it must have felt like the moment they realized that Jesus, the object of their cruelty, really was the Son of God.

But then, Jesus prayed for them on the cross, didn’t he?  He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He still loved them.  Like St. Paul, Jesus had mercy on persecutors who knew not what they were doing.

As we contemplate those who played a direct role in the suffering and death of Our Lord, feelings of love and gratitude come easily. He suffered for love of us, to save us and give us eternal life.  As we contemplate his walk to Calvary we would like to envision that we would have been like Veronica, courageously wiping the face of Jesus. Or we would have been like the women at the Cross and St. John the Apostle, staying with Jesus, loving Him and being courageous enough not to run away.

Look in the Mirror

I like to envision myself in those heroic roles. Yet, I must also look in the mirror and envision myself in the other roles too.  As one fully committed to my faith, I can look back and realize the many times I was blind and knew not what I did. I can also look to my present when I enter the confessional and realize that even knowing, I sometimes make the wrong choices.  Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane felt every sin. Every moment we avoided or ran away from our Christian responsibilities, we abandoned Christ, the same as His followers who ran from the Crucifixion. Every word against others, spoken in an unloving fashion, was a word against Christ.  For whatever we do to the least of our brethren we do unto Jesus.  When we fail to do our part to stop abortions, we are like Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands of Jesus death. He personally was against the death of Jesus, but did not want to interfere with those that felt otherwise.

So, perhaps among the surprised faces at judgment time, will be our own—”Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of you?” (Matt 25:44).

If not for the Resurrection, we would stop right here and wallow in our guilt. Instead, Christ took upon himself our sins, died, and was resurrected so that we too can one day have eternal life with Him.  He loves and forgives us and also loved His tormentors during His passion and death.  Surely, he also forgave some of them as they came to understand the error in their ways and repented.

Like the good thief on the cross, Jesus looks for a sincere heart and sorrow for our sins, not perfection.  So even if our Lenten sacrifices were not all they should have been, and even though we are sinners, Easter is a time to rejoice. That is what I like most about spring. I cannot always count on the weather in North Dakota, but I can always count on the joy of Easter. He is risen, Alleluia!

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