Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Resurrection as a Celebration of Hope

Every Sunday, but especially during the Easter Season, and very especially on the Sunday following the Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday), Roman Catholic Liturgy commemorates and celebrates the confession of faith that sustains and makes sense of the Christian religion and of the life of every believer, and of the Church community as a whole: namely, that Christ is Risen, that His news, His message, His life’s project and the much-heralded and witnessed coming of the Kingdom of God live on in the new life of Christians in the Church and in the building of a better world – a world in which it is our mission to live bent on complying with the will of the Father of Jesus Christ, our Father, and which consists of loving each other even as God loves us.

At the core and in the essence of the teachings of Jesus – through His words and deeds, through His prophetic aspiration and through the perception of His works as seen by his compatriots and contemporaries and as witnessed in the New Testament – is the establishment of the Kingdom of God, much-heralded by the Prophets and awaited by the people of the Old Testament. But contrary to the warrior/military and politically expansionist traits attributed to this Messiah, the profile of this Messenger, this Envoy come to establish the Kingdom of God, is that of a Jesus who presented the Sovereignty of God on Earth through the love of all those who recognize themselves as the children of the Father and, as such, build their world in a peace that sows justice, peace as the sum of God’s blessings for Man, asserted in abounding truth, compassion, mercy, solidarity, bread, health, forgiveness, freedom, good news and renewed opportunities for life, and not just any life, but abounding life.

The Resurrection, that fundamental confession of faith of the first Christians, was born of a transformation of their lives through the Crucified Lord. Arising from this transformation, they know and confess themselves to be "new men". And in this new life they now raise their voices to God the “Father” and find the Living Crucified Christ upon “breaking bread” and this brings them together as brothers and sisters in small communities of faith and hope, in which they possess the knowledge that they have passed from death to life, a new life in which they now effectively love one another so that not one among them suffers want.

Christian Easter is, then, a celebration of life over death. It is the triumph of love and forgiveness over hatred and it is, for this reason, the opening of a new life, a new world in which peaceful coexistence and reconciliation and goodness are made possible through the new mandate of love, which is the summary of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who invites Man to partake of a new lifestyle, which consists not of selfishly saving and tending to one’s own life, but of spending one’s life on others, as a condition for happiness and for the eternal life that we all seek and for which we yearn for as long as we are on this earthly pilgrimage.

The most superficial analysis of our current national and international reality provides a sharp contrast to the principles of the New Testament, which is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God as lived and heralded by Jesus and practiced by the communities arising from the ministry of the Apostles. The categories of our society of today are far from those presented and suggested by the Carpenter of Nazareth as the most human means of building the new Heaven on the new Earth.

Today, in the United States of America, we are living in times of deep crisis, of great and grave uncertainty regarding the immediate future: We do not live in peace due to the armed conflicts on which erratic government policies have embarked us. We fail to know whether our senior citizens will be able to enjoy the rights and benefits of their work during retirement or whether current medical services will be able to continue in the form of the most universal and efficient coverage possible for the North American population. Nor do we know if today’s children and youth will have access to an education, or to a proper education, and so on. And all of this is taking place in the midst of an evident recession – one that is undeclared officially but one that is apparent on an everyday basis in both labor and commerce – and also amid an intense, extensive and costly presidential race, characterized by the emergence of new models of candidates and new sectors of the voting population that are being thrown into the ever manipulated, ever self-interested and ever biased mix made of this, and of all information emerging from the Social Communications Media.

But the situation is neither better nor more hope-inspiring in the rest of the world: We have advanced in technical-scientific manipulation but have reverted in the task of humanizing Man and communities. This is manifest in ills that affect today’s world: famine, forced displacements, huge migratory waves, vast inequalities between the few people and nations with squandered wealth to spare and the enormous masses that have nothing, rampant administrative corruption in government systems and multinational corporations alike, the lack of elemental human and social opportunities for the greatest part of the population and for the most diverse of reasons, as well as the lack of access to such basic needs as housing, health, education and work.

From our Christian viewpoint of Man, the world and their history, this disheartening outlook finds its roots in sin, which is manifest in the injustice, unbridled greed and hedonism of a culture that gives priority to knowledge of the world over knowledge of the Kingdom of God, a culture that turns its back on God and where the selfish whims of Man take privilege over the creative, paternal and merciful will of God.

But it is precisely within this inhuman and unjust reality that we Christians must ask ourselves about the legacy of Jesus of Nazareth in the life of his followers and about the presence of the values of the Scriptures in the world, about the ferment of the masses and the effectiveness of the evangelizing task of the Church. In the light of the Gospel, far from intimidating us, this world should challenge us, as of the Easter of Christ, to build upon Easter worldwide – to go from darkness into day, from indifference to love, from intolerance of differences to reconciliation born of brotherly dialog, from attachment to the temporal to yearning for the eternal, from the corrupt and corruptible to the new and transcendental, from a thousand kinds of death to the bounty of life that God offers us in the Resurrected Christ.

Today, then, more than ever, the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ takes on significance as a challenge to all Christians, to all men and women of goodwill, to build the new world that we all yearn for and the new Earth that we also all aspire to as the best living space and time possible for future generations, a world built on the criteria of the Kingdom of God.