Easter – the Great Yes to the Great No to Death

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by John O’Connor, OFM

Recently, folks have said to me, “Fr. John, it seems like the world is crazier than ever.” Indeed, we are faced with many challenges these days – some more complex than others.

There’s violence in so many places around the globe. We can’t help but think of the suffering and misery of the people of Ukraine. It’s happening thousands of miles away, but we see it up close on the nightly newscasts on our tv screens. There are other important and, unfortunately, overshadowed stories – like the children, families, elderly, migrants and poor who struggle daily for even one nutritious meal.

We hear about the issues of global warming and realize that at this very moment, the lives of millions of people, including in our own country, are being seriously impacted by its effects.

But we don’t have to look in other parts of the world for the challenges we face. Closer to home, we have the normal experiences of life in the 21st century that only seem to get worse – homelessness, unemployment, mass shootings… a list too long for this column. It makes us wonder about those in government leadership. How can we get our elected leaders to move beyond partisan politics to work for the common good?

In some ways, these challenges may seem to be tombs. Yet, the Easter message is one of hope. It is about Jesus rising from the tomb and, in doing so, making possible our own rising above those experiences in life that seem insurmountable.

The late Fr. Bill Toohey, campus minister at the University of Notre Dame, wrote in his book, Life after Birth, of an unusual Easter card that he had received from a female student. The stationery unfolded into a long sheet, with footprints running along the left-hand margin. The student explained that these were the footprints of Jesus walking away from the tomb on Easter.

Her greeting to Fr. Bill was, “I hope you discover empty tombs all the days of your life.” She explained to him that if he were able to be the kind of person that she thought he wanted to be, it would mean that he had entered people’s lives in such a way that they were freed from whatever was holding them back from living authentically.

Humanity, all men and women, have the ability to make decisions to become involved in actions that are life-giving and positive. Yes, it may seem that we are living in “crazy times.” But when God came to live among us in the presence of his son Jesus, I don’t think anyone would be going out on a limb in saying that the people of that age may have also characterized those days as “crazy times.”

Easter marks the great Yes to all of the No’s that life can put upon us, including the great No to death. By raising Jesus from the dead, God has broken the power of the No’s and granted to us the gift of life eternal.