More than Christmas, Easter enjoys much attention and participation from Christians, including nominal Christians who do not frequent Sunday services during the year. This is because the narrative of the suffering and death of Christ talks to the human experience of internal and external forces that frustrate and block us from achieving the best of what we would like to be. It speaks to many limitations imposed on us by the circumstances of our life and the unfairness, injustice, cruelty, rejection, abuse, disappointment, and even torture meted against us in moments of vulnerability by those having an advantage over us. In his suffering and death, Jesus is seen as giving expression to the suffering of so many innocent people in the world and being in solidarity with them. This explains why the Good Friday Services, including the Seven Words celebration, are so popular.
Unfortunately, for most of these once-a-year Churchgoers, this is where it ends, and they do not proceed to discover how the resurrection of Christ could transform these situations of limitations and injustices. For this reason, Good Friday Services, at least in the Roman Catholic Church, is more attended than the Saturday Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday. Our once-a-year Churchgoers appear to appreciate Jesus more as a comrade in suffering and not so much as a victorious solution to our suffering through his resurrection.
On the other hand, regular believers go beyond seeing Jesus’s suffering and death as an act of solidarity with us by factoring in the resurrection. Factoring in the resurrection makes all the difference because it is the apex of the Easter event. Without the resurrection, the suffering and death we experience become an end and bring a sense of hopelessness. With the resurrection, however, the message of Easter extends beyond the comfort of Jesus’ solidarity with us in our suffering and death to assure us of victory.
Thus, the message of Easter is that just as suffering and death did not have the last say in Jesus, so our suffering and death in all its manifestations will not have the last word, and this is the joy of Easter. While suffering and death remain part of us, their sting is removed by Christ’s resurrection. This is clear from the first Christians and martyrs who, on account of their conviction about the Risen Lord, could affirm true religion and its practice even when doing so brought about rejection, suffering, and sometimes death. The message of Easter is the conviction that with the risen Christ among us, though we do not know exactly how right now, what is right, what is true, and what gives life will prevail over the chaos that we see in our country and the world at large.
The first book of the Bible tells us that in the beginning, there was chaos, and God’s Spirit breathed over the chaos and brought ordered and purposeful creation. Unfortunately, that order remained only for a while, and sin brought back the disorder. The message of Easter is that with the rising of Christ, God is restoring that order. While it is not known exactly how and when, the message of the resurrection is that the situation will not remain the same. With the resurrection of Christ, God is creating the world and its order anew.
In the celebration of the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, a candle is lit in a dark Church to symbolise Christ as the light that dispels the darkness. All sorts of darkness seem to prevail in our time, the darkness of greed and corruption compounded by lack of leadership to deal with it, the darkness of addiction that is holding our children and youth in ransom and causing much pain in families, the darkness of crime that makes us feel unsafe in a country that is supposed to be free, the darkness of unemployment that eats away the dignity and confidence of our young people.
Amid all these forms of darkness, the risen Christ is leading us to conquer it. With the conviction of the risen Christ among us, believers are invited to roll up their sleeves and deal with darkness instead of wallowing in despair. To return to the once-a-year Churchgoers who participate in Easter services on the painful part of Friday only, it is important to participate in all the days of the Easter celebration so that we become part of Christ’s transformation from being a victim to being a victor. The risen Christ gives believers the zest and the courage both at personal and at the social and political levels to do what needs to be done to change the situation of the darkness into a situation of light, to change death-dealing situations into life-giving situations and to turn chaos into a life of order.
Believers are excited about Easter because it gives a glimmer of hope in the social, economic, and political darkness surrounding us. In addition to that, and perhaps more importantly, it offers hope to existential concerns that are part and parcel of our life. These existential concerns include complex relationships in our circles and our families, incurable diseases, tragedies that befall us, emotional effects of neglect and abuse, deep-seated anger, guilt feelings, depression, betrayal, rejection, disappointment, unfulfilled dreams, emotional imbalance, addictions, ageing, and the prospect of death.
In these enumerated existential concerns, the Risen Christ guides and empowers us in dealing with them and gives us the strength and peace to live with those conditions we cannot change. After his resurrection, Christ appeared to his frightened disciples in a locked room and assured them of his peace, “peace that the world cannot give”. The joy of believers about Easter is the knowledge that while difficult situations of their life continue to attain, they can be happy and peaceful because their Risen Lord is journeying with them, loving them, supporting them, and assuring them that they are not alone “andindedwa” because He has Risen.
Ron Rolheiser quoting a famous mystic, Julian of Norwich, says, ‘In the end, all will be well, and all will be well, and every manner of being will be well’ because Christ has died and Risen. In the present darkness of the world in all its manifestations and amidst the complex existential situations of our life, with the celebration of Easter, Christians proclaim in faith that Christ’s light will prevail. So, with confidence, they sing “Alleluya Alleluya Alleluya!!!!