"We need a God that gives us hope even in times of defeat."
One can only wonder if there is reason for us to celebrate Easter in a world that is more like a Good Friday. Gripped with fear and uncertainties, we ask what lesson this blessed feast could have in these tragic days. Apparently, evil has its hour and uses it to turn out the light of the world and it is easy in this hour of our lives to succumb to the allures of darkness and despair. Can we find any redeeming feature in the dire circumstances we now find ourselves in?
Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, a renowned televangelist, in one of his programs, draws us to two scenes in the life of our blessed Lord. The first scene is in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus met the devil in the guise of Judas. He surrendered himself into the hands of Judas and the soldiers with these words: This is your hour. Apparently, by the blessed Lord’s words, he has given the devil his hour and allows darkness to extinguish the light of this world.
The second scene took place when the Sanhedrin warned the blessed Lord that they would hand him over to Herod who would kill him. To this threat Jesus in effect answered, “Go tell that fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow; and the third day I will accomplish my purpose.” Contrast that in the first scene with Judas, Jesus is giving the devil an hour to accomplish his dark intent but God gives himself days to accomplish his purpose.
The lesson, according to Sheen, is that evil has its hour but the Lord has his day. Unless the seed has its hour to fall to the ground and dies, it will never have the day when it rises to the newness of life. Without the darkness of evil, can we appreciate the brilliance of God’s light? Unless there is a Good Friday in our lives there can be no Easter Sunday. Unless there is the crown of thorns, there can be no halo of light; unless there is the scourged body, there can be no glorified body. And only in finding ourselves in the darkness of sickness, death, poverty, and persecution can we appreciate and recognize the magnificence and majesty of the glorified Christ.
God does not bring evil, but he allows evil up to a certain extent to wreak havoc in order to test and allow us to grow in holiness and glorify God. And there is the answer to the question—how can we celebrate Easter in a world that is like a Good Friday?
Christ’s passion, death and resurrection give us the answer to the question—how can a merciful God remain passive in the face of so much suffering and pain? How can God look down on all the suffering on this earth and not do anything about it? But given God’s resurrection and conquest of death—man can no longer say in his sick bed, in persecution and in pain, God does not know what it is to suffer. Faith in God is not only nurtured when there is sunshine, when there is comfort and luxury. Rather, we need a God that gives us hope even in times of defeat. For only then can we transcend and triumph over pain and death.
Pope Francis says that Easter is a reason for joy even in the midst of the pain and suffering we now find ourselves in. He reflects: “Our experience today is much like that of the first disciples. We, like them, “live surrounded by an atmosphere of pain and uncertainty…” and are asking “Who will roll away the stone?” (Mk 16:3). He describes the tombstone as one that “threatens to bury all hope” and enumerates the consequences so many are living: the elderly forced into complete isolation, families who can no longer put food on the table, frontliners who are “exhausted and overwhelmed.” It’s a “heaviness that seems to have the last word.”
Without Jesus’ resurrection, Christianity is reduced to nothingness. The apostle Paul says, “And if Christ has not been raised… your faith is in vain… Your faith is futile and you are still in your sins… If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 19). This is the lynchpin of our Christian faith. Christ’s resurrection teaches us that death can be conquered; that one’s faith in the resurrection is our hope that one day we can and will conquer suffering and even death. For it is Christ himself who gave us the example and showed us the way to our final victory.
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