Easter has come upon us! Alleluia! Darkness and death is vanquished forever and the last bastion has been overcome. God has had the last laugh, and it is the sweetest greatest laugh of all.
That is what our faith holds, and as Church, the resurrection of Christ our Saviour is the lynchpin of our faith and forms who we are. Yet, it also is one of the most controversial events in the history of the world, because it also requires the grace of faith to hold steadfastly to it. One of the greatest challenges that a preacher can face is to give a rousing, clear and resounding homily on Easter Sunday. There are various factors that can contribute to this.
The first is that the entire church would have just culminated in three long days of deep, soul-searching and very heavy liturgy, and a lot of them are rather ‘exhausted’, even if just at the physical level. Secondly, the joy that Easter gives is actually not a joy that is experienced at the physical level, and the general human experience of joy tends to be only on that level. Thirdly, in order to see joy at a spiritual level, it necessarily means that the preacher was/is in touch with his own spirit in order to bring out something that speaks of that Easter joy that is beyond the tangible and empirical. I believe that that last hurdle is also one that is most challenging.
The real hope that Easter resurrection gives is precisely beyond the hope that this world can give. It is metaphysical, because it literally is beyond the physical. But that is not to say that Easter hope is a false hope and an empty promise. The fact that hope is something that we cannot see but still something that we cling on to in life means that it is something that we are just unable to grab a firm hold on in this life. Mary Magdalene wanted to cling on to Jesus, and he told her not to. It's not about clinging onto. It is not about proof. But it is also neither irrational nor intelligible.
The forces that were against Jesus at his crucifixion taunted and challenged him to ‘come down from the cross’ to prove that he was who he said he was. These are the same forces that instigate us to ask for great signs and proofs of the resurrection within our own categories and limited mental framework. Jesus knew that if he were to come down from the cross on Good Friday (which he obviously could if he had wanted to), it would also limit the powers of God to merely overcoming difficult situations and painful moments, rather than being the supreme power that can overcome the last bastion of any form – which is death.
But it has showed one thing very clearly – that God is in no particular hurry to show his powers of vindication and strength, even though he holds all the cards in his divine hands. There is something in doing the good, the holy, the true, the morally right, and the upright that holds out in the end. But often, its fruit is not immediate nor its power a brash and in-your-face display and arrogance. Easter is what I’d call silent beauty and quiet power.
Anything more and good would have played into the hands of evil, and God into the devil’s. That simply won’t happen. The entire painful and long unfolding of the events of Calvary attest to that, and it also shows that God is in no hurry to show his splendour that he is. In fact, it is in enduring the suffering, staying in the woundedness and beholding the pain that allows the beauty, good, morally right and truth to prevail in the end. And that always takes time, without much exception.
Is this easy to preach? Do we all have the capability to hold on to the crosses in life in the way that Jesus endured the suffering he had to undergo? Can we all appreciate that often in life, God seems to work with the speed of flowing molasses? Probably not. That alone makes the Easter message such a challenge for any preacher worth his time spent in his study of homiletics, and that is why I am also inclined to believe that at any given congregation gathered on Easter Sunday, in order to hear a meaningful and uplifting message of hope, it is important to see what it is that we are bringing with us in our hearts to Mass on Easter Sunday.
We need to bring with us our pains and struggles, our imperfections and our shared brokenness because it is within these that Easter joy and Easter hope becomes God’s ‘raw materials’ for the resurrection to be experienced in our lives.
If we can truly to this without resentment and impatience, without anger and regret, we will slowly begin to appreciate the silent beauty and quiet power of the Easter resurrection hope.
Blessed Easter to you, my dear friends.