Each of us has a distinct memory of Easter. It might be of chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies. It might be of a happy Easter celebration with family and friends. It might be of meaningful Easter homilies and liturgies that touched us deeply. There is one common memory of Easter I think that we share and binds us together: that effusive, palpable experience of hope and joy of that Jesus is risen. We have those tingles, I suspect, when we see the candles lit, or when the bells chime as the Gloria is sung again, or when we watch the baptisms at Easter; and yes, maybe each time we sing “Jesus Christ is risen today, hallelujah”.
All this is absent from our lives this year. There is an emptiness that is real and hard to express. Many of us grappled to find meaning at Easter this year. I do too. Until I chanced upon these few lines that Fr Henri Nouwen wrote in his book Our Greatest Gift:
The resurrection does not solve our problems about dying and death. It is not the happy ending to our life’s struggle, nor is it the big surprise that God has kept in store for us. No, the resurrection is the expression of God’s faithfulness….The resurrection is God’s way of revealing to us that nothing that belongs to God will ever go to waste. What belongs to God will never get lost.
I’d like to suggest that this is what we need to hear most on Easter Sunday this year amidst the CoVid-19 pandemic. That we belong to God and God will never lose us. In Jesus’ death and resurrection God shows us so clearly the depths of his faithfulness to us.
Fr Mike Schmitz echoes a similar theme in his reflection, “Easter Special”:
Below are the key points he makes. They enrich Fr Nouwen’s insights about Easter:
- There are two reasons why Easter must matter to us. First, that we are important to God. Second, that God trusts us.
- We are important because Jesus’ death and resurrection save us. This is how God shows us that he loves us and is faithful to us. God gives us Jesus to sacrifice his life for us. We are important to God that he wants to save us in, through and with Jesus.
- God trusts us. God knows that when we encounter God we know how good it is. This is saving news, and we will know what to do with it — we will go forth and share with all.
- This is what we see in stories about Jesus’ resurrection. That he is risen is very good news: it frees, it uplifts, it saves all those who encountered the risen Jesus, as well as all who hear this proclaimed. This good news about the risen Jesus transforms our hearts. We know it is so good that it is meant for sharing joyfully and generously.
- This is what we see in the gospel reading for Easter Sunday morning. When the risen Jesus meets Mary Magdalene in the garden and calls her by name, she recognizes him who she mistook for a gardener at first. He then commands her to go and tell his disciples. He knows this encounter will transform Mary Magdalene. She will be filled with courage, hope and generosity to go and do the right thing — to go forth and proclaim to the apostles that Jesus is risen. She will bear this good and joyful news. God trusts her to do this.
- Today God tells us we are important to him and that God trusts us to tell the good news to all. This is how God values us because the spirit of the risen Jesus transforms our hearts. When we fulfill God’s trust, we will help transform the hearts of others.
“We are important to God”. “God trusts us”. Isn’t it wonderful to hear these that speak about how God cherishes us on Easter Sunday? These two points Fr Schmitz makes, together with Fr Nouwen’s insight about God’s faithfulness, reminds us that God values us so much to save us and not lose us or discard us as waste. They offer good points for reflection in this Easter time. Here are three points for our prayerful reflection.
a) All of us struggle to know and experience God’s love. For people with same-sex attraction (SSA), the struggles are more difficult and painful. Many in Church tell them they don’t belong in church. If they come or if they are in ministry, they are second-class Christians, never good enough for God or God’s ministry. Yet, the Easter message proclaims that Jesus died for all peoples and his resurrection saves all people, even people with SSA. This is what salvation is all about: everyone God created is important to God, and God will never lose them or treat them as waste.
As a person with SSA or someone who has family or friends with SSA, how do you feel that people with SSA are important to God and God will never lose them? Is this good news to hear at Easter time? Why?
Is there a word or a phrase you would like to share with the risen Jesus about this good news you hear? What would you say to him in prayer?
b) In the Gospels, Mary Magdalene is presented as the prostitute. She is an outcast in her society because her lifestyle defiles her body, the temple of God. Yet, God reaches out to her and welcomes her into his company. After his death and resurrection, Jesus chooses to appear to her first. He does so to entrust her with the important mission of proclaiming the Easter truth – that he is risen. Society despises her; Jesus values her. She will be his first apostle in resurrection times.
Have you experienced being cast aside by family or friends, at home, in school or at the workplace? What pained you the most of such experiences? As a person with SSA, did such experiences affect your relationship with God? How so?
Look back on these experiences. How did they become better? What happened or who helped? Were these moments or people how God reminded you that you were valuable to him? Did it make a difference knowing God was present?
Spend some time thinking of a song you would like to offer to God as your thanksgiving for his faithfulness that you are valuable to him. Go to Youtube or your iphone and play that song as part of your prayer this week.
c) Many will struggle to celebrate Easter this year. They feel that the CoVid-19 situation has ‘robbed’ them of encountering the risen Jesus in Church. Mary Magdalene encountered the risen Jesus. He came to her. from their meeting, she went to Jesus’ disciples to announce that he has risen. She models how or encounter with the risen must change us – from people of fear and uncertainty to people of courage to bear hope to all.
How are you encountering the risen Jesus at this Easter time? What touches, inspires or challenges you about meeting the risen Jesus in prayer, in daily life, in your encounter with other people?
If Mary Magdalene as an outcast becomes Jesus’ chosen herald of Easter joy, can you as a person with SSA sense who the risen Jesus is calling you to share Easter joy and life with at this CoVid-19 time? How would you want to share Easter joy and life with this other person? Make the effort to reach out like Mary Magdalene and bring the good news that Jesus is risen to him/her.
Words of Encouragement
“This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.”
We pray, O Lord, that you will fill us with the joy of the Easter truth that Christ has risen, and in Him alone, we know your faithfulness to love and save us. Amen.