A few years ago, one of my fellow priests in the Diocese of Paterson published a modest collection of one-line reflections on the meaning of Easter. I find them very helpful – and hope that you will value the following sampling also.
Scientist Robert Flatt wrote “The Resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over, no matter what my circumstances may be.”
Reverend Martin Luther, a driving force of the Protestant Revolution, left us this beautiful line: “Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”
Author Carl Knudsen wrote “The story of Easter is the story of God’s wonderful window of divine surprise.”
St. Augustine, sinner-become-saint, probably awe-struck by his own conversion, wanted us to know that “(Jesus) departed from our sight that we might return to our heart and find him there. For he departed, and behold, he is here.”
Sir Walter Raleigh, of all people, applied Jesus’ resurrection to his own personal destiny and professed his faith by exclaiming, “But from this earth, this grave, this dust, my God shall raise me up, I trust.”
And Ralph Waldo Emerson, an author I suspect many of us would not expect to find among persons making such statements of religious faith, proclaimed, “He takes (us) out of time and makes (us) feel eternity.”
What this list of personal beliefs signifies is a yearning that the whole human race has for permanence, for unending, perfect life beyond death. How could it be, thinkers are asking, that we are created for such a limited, incomplete and ultimately unsatisfying existence on Planet Earth? There must be more, they say, there has to be more!
The debate about whether or not Jesus emerged physically from the tomb will go on for centuries, we can be quite sure. But what seems certain and incontestable is that his earliest followers, including those who had witnessed his horrible crucifixion and death, were convinced beyond doubt that he was alive soon after his burial and was communicating with them and ministering to them and loving them tenderly, generously, just as he had before.
I think there is no better expression of that fact of our Christian origins than the hymn that takes its theme and its title from St. Paul and reminds us that “we walk by faith and not by sight.” Faith is a personal choice: I can choose to believe or not. Faith is acceptance of truth on the word of someone else. I wasn’t there, you weren’t there. What we are celebrating today has been passed down to us for over a hundred generations. But I believe, and you believe, that Jesus of Nazareth has been raised from the dead and lives now with God and with us. I find confirmation and ratification of that faith in my personal relationship with the risen Jesus, as I know you do, too. Then let us rejoice and be glad! Jesus has passed through death and into life eternal, and so will you and I!