Justice and Easter joy

Is it possible to celebrate Easter when so many people are still experiencing a Good Friday? Is it possible to attain happiness when so many are dying their own death on a cross? Isn’t there something false and cynical in our joyful Easter songs? These are questions that hit at the base of our Christian heart.

It seems that we should only live happy in a world free of tears or suffering, suppressing our songs and festivities until we have a world that is happy for everyone and repressing our joy so as not to intensifiy the pain of any who is a victim. The question is inevitable: If there is not happiness for everyone, what happiness do we allow ourselves?

The happiness of Easter has nothing to do with the the satisfaction of men and women who complacently celebrate their well-being, and keep their distance from those who are suffering. Easter joy is more than this. We are happy, not because we no longer experience hunger or war, nor because our tears have stopped flowing, but because God wants life, justice and happiness for the dejected. And he will attain this, someday, "I’ll wipe every tear from your eyes, and there will no longer be hunger or death, nor crying, nor screaming or pain." (Rev. 21,4).

Our Easter joy is nourished by this hope. That is why we do not forget those in suffering. On the contrary, their pain moves us and touches us. We can never forget them: When we run from the suffering of those who are carry the cross, we are not celebrating the Resurrection of Our Lord but boosting our own egos.

"If Christ did not rise again, our preaching is in vain, your faith is in vain". That is what St. Paul of Tarsus wrote to the Corinthians in the year 55 A.D. If Christ was not truly resurrected, the church must keep quiet because it has no Good News to share with anyone. Our faith becomes meaningless. We have no real hope to share with anyone. It is only the Resurrection of Jesus that forms the foundation and meaning of our Christian faith.

In this Easter season we need to relive the experiences of those early believers as they found their faith in the resurrection of Jesus and what it means for us, as Christians, to believe in the Risen Christ.

Those members of the first Christian community underwent an event that transformed them completely. Those men and women resisted acceptance of Jesus’ message and then began preaching the Gospel with total conviction. These disciples who were full of fear, who were unable to accompany Jesus in the moment of his crucifixion, then began risking their lives to spread the salvation of the crucified Christ.

Through different paths, everyone may relive the destiny of crucifixion in their own daily lives as they take the step toward the Risen Christ. Jesus’ resurrection helps one to understand and survive the difficulties of daily life with a new sense and depth, and learn to understand and better live out the ministry of Christ who died and was resurrected. "Let us always carry with us the death of Jesus so the life so that the life of Jesus manifests itelf within our bodies." (2 Cor 4, 10).

The community of the faithful does not feel lost. The Risen One walks with us like "a leader who brings us to life," (Acts 3, 15). It is important to know how to discover this in our friendships and communities (Mt 18, 20), we must learn how to discover it in the Gospels (Matt 7, 24-27), allow ourselves to be nourished by the Eucharist (Luke 24, 28-31), discover it in the needy (Matt 25, 31-46).

Faith in the Risen Christ is not spontaneously born in us today,only because we have heard it since childhood from catechists and preachers. To open ourselves to faith in Jesus’ resurrection, we must take our own journey. It is necessary to not forget Jesus, love him and seek him with all our strength, but not among the dead. The living Jesus is found where there is life.

To find ourselves with the Risen Christ, full of faith and re-energized, we ought to find him not in a religion reduced to the observance and fulfillment of its norms and traditions, but where the spirit of Jesus lives, received with faith, love and responsibilities by His followers.

We ought to find him not among divided Christians who are caught up in meangingless battles that are empty of the love of Jesus and passion for his Gospel. We must build communities that put Christ front and center because we know "where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them".

Through Christ, who arose triumphantly from the tomb, we are no longer prisoners of the past when we have stumbled. We can end the vicious circle of the impossible. The resurrection is open to us all. We have seen the signs for a new way of life.

That is what happens when gestures of solidarity weave together a network to help the world’s hopeless to raise their heads and restore their dignity and human value.

In our own lives, we experience moments of resurrection, moments of plentitude that give meaning to our actions. Easter’s light highlights the fullness of our lives and what we have now: A long period of tenacious commitment has provided a moment of transformation to stand up to injustice. A single gesture of mercy brings us to the end; the fragile but tireless decision of brotherhood brings us together and transforms us.

With the Risen One at Easter, life will always have the last word. Nothing more will be lost. Easter’s victory is ours. It can be so for all humanity.

Padre Flores is director of migrant ministry for the Diocese of Rochester.

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