“Brothers and Sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything. Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures”.1 Corinthians 15:1-4
With these words, St Paul reminds us of the key meaning of Easter: It was for us that Christ died. He has paid the price for our sins. Sin has a price. And Christ has paid the price for us. And the proof that Christ was right, that his embrace of the Cross on Good Friday was the right decision is the Resurrection, which is the Father’s vindication of the Son. For many of us, the language of sin might not be very meaningful. And yet, though lacking in meaning, the reality of human brokenness is there. We cannot deny it. We see it all around us. And if we are honest, we also see it in ourselves. We might not be committing the “big sins” like killing, lying, cheating, adultery, etcetera; the sins against the Ten Commandments or the Final Judgment. But in our day to day living, do we live just for ourselves, or do we live in a way that we recognize and consciously so, that to be a follower of Jesus, is to learn to live, one step at a time, day by day, for something bigger than me?
And that is one of the challenges that the Resurrection throws at us, namely, the invitation to learn to live for something other than us, for something bigger than us. Jesus did not die for himself. Jesus embraced death because he was living for something bigger than himself, namely, for the salvation of the whole human race. The focus of Jesus was not himself. The focus of Jesus was to reconcile all of humanity with God. So, when we feel “justified” that we are without sin because we do not commit the “big sins” against the Ten Commandments or against the teachings of the Church, kindly submit yourself to this basic, spiritual, litmus test: whom do you live for?
Can you imagine a parish in which everyone lived for the other, in which everyone lived for something bigger than themselves? I dream of such a parish. I dream, because Easter is precisely such a dream. Easter is a dream and a vision of a religious experience that breaks narrow barriers, the barriers buried in the tombs of individualism and inability to aspire for the greater gifts that God has already prepared for us. It is not like God is making it up as we Christians go along. What God has in store for us is already made present in the Risen One. The issue is: are we ready to receive what God has prepared for us? Do we even believe that God is able to act and is acting in history, or, even if we believe in the existence of God, we simply do not think that God can work in my history?
Easter reminds us that God is not powerless in the face of the challenges of human life. And this is the big temptation for today, especially for those in the age brackets of the young adults to the 40s and 50s: the image of God who is distant and cannot really be active in my life. Hence, for many, there appears no need for God. And with the eclipse of God comes the eclipse and demise of religion. Little wonder that the Gallup poll now tells us that believers are now a minority in the United States: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).
The Flame of the Easter Candle offers the consoling realization that even though many do not see the need for God in their lives, this night of the absence or demise of God will not have the last word. God will break through, God is breaking through the darkness with the light of the Risen Christ. It is not darkness, the absence or the death of God that will have the last word. It is light, Christ our Light, Lumen Christi, that emerges stronger.
And so we must continue to say, as we did on Easter night, “thanks be to God,” Doe Gratias!