Two thousand years ago, an insignificant Jewish man was brutally executed to protect the power of privileged people. He was then hastily buried in a tomb carved into a rocky cliff. Three days later, some women went to the tomb to finish the traditional burial rituals. They discovered that the tomb was empty. Jesus had risen from the dead in accordance with ancient prophecies. All this happened so that you could have an Easter egg hunt, wear a nice new Easter dress, get together with family for an Easter brunch, and enjoy a few days off from school.
Those last lines may sound a little bit sarcastic, but chances are, many of your family and friends probably think of Easter this way. As Catholics, we know that Jesus’ death was the perfect sacrifice that reconciles us to God. We also know that the Resurrection of Jesus paves the way for our resurrection from the dead and eternal life with him forever in heaven. And we know that faith in Jesus enables us to receive these blessings. However, I fear that most of us totally misunderstand faith. We think of “the Catholic faith” as an institution that sells a kind of eternal life insurance. It’s like fire insurance; you will be safe from hellfire if you keep your membership current. Older members seem to think this required paying their "church dues" and attending Mass every Sunday. Younger folks seem to think it's enough to be baptized or be a good person or at least not be Adolf Hitler. And then we all get to go to heaven. Meanwhile, there are bills to pay, weekends at the cabin, endless sports tournaments and a million other life challenges that need my energy and attention. There simply aren’t enough hours in a week to spend on religion except for Christmas, Easter, and grandma’s funeral.
The Bible presents faith as a very different concept. Faith is seen as a kind of friendship, like the trust you have in a friend who has always been there for you. Jesus wants to show you that God has always been there for you even though you have not always been faithful to God. It is precisely in the daily moments of our lives that the Risen Jesus comes to meet us. He wants to take your hand and walk with you each day. He wants to reveal to you how loved you are, that you are never alone, and that you don’t have to figure out life for yourself. He wants to heal the spiritual, emotional, and even physical wounds that are keeping you from living a full life. The eternal life of heaven is actually just a continuation of the friendship that you have with God here and now. So how do you get started on a friendship with God? First, realize that God desires a friendship with you even more than you desire a friendship with him. Second, start praying the Rosary, even just a decade, each and every day. Third, pick up your Bible and read the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. You will begin to notice God’s presence and action in your life like never before. And you will begin to realize, “It was for me that Jesus rose from the dead.”
Christ is Risen! Happy Easter!
Fr. Joel Sember