College Chaplain Reflection – March 17, 2016

March 17, 2016

Easter Greetings

So apparently this Sunday is Palm Sunday, marking the beginning of Holy Week and the countdown to Easter. I’m not sure where the first quarter of the year has disappeared to-¦ but it is gone and here we are. My dad was telling me the other day that Easter is easily his favourite time of year, trumping even the Christmas festivities. For a man who covers his house in Christmas lights (not to mention the average four or five Christmas dinners our family hosts) that is a big call. A big call, but the right call. If we are open to the mystery of Easter we can find hope, consolation and joy even in our darkest moments. Easter is the certain promise of new birth.

I really do like how most local newsagencies still sell Easter greeting cards. Similar to at Christmas time though, a lot of the cards do their best to ignore the fact it is a religious holiday. A bunny rabbit offers us a colourful egg (how very strange when you think about it). And yet even the fluffy bunny still greets us with the mystery at the heart of Easter; that this is a season of hope and new birth.

Hope even in the face of death. I’ve spent the last few articles reflecting on the fact that we humans are made for love. Now as much as fond memories can try and bridge the gap, death tears us apart from those we love. The anguish of death is something we all share. Easter holds out for us the hope that death won’t be the final word. Jesus, ready to share in the depths of our darkness, even to his own death on the Cross, has defeated death and held out for us the certain hope of the resurrection. Life is the final word.

Easter brings us hope too in the face of evil and suffering. On the Cross we see a man in agony. It is not a pretty sight. It never has been and never will be. And yet we confess it is a beautiful sight, because on the Cross we see a manifestation of love enduring through and therefore transforming suffering. Out of love Jesus was ready to face rejection. Even as people taunted and teased him, he stretched his arms out on the Cross to embrace the whole world. That embrace was for everyone; even those wishing his death. What appeared to be a terrible and despairing end on the Cross therefore became for all of humanity a sign of hope. He was ready to suffer out of love and so his suffering was not futile. He won for us a share in God’s life and grace. Our suffering too, through his Cross, can therefore become a source of life and grace for those around us.

And finally, Easter brings new birth where sin has shackled us. In small ways and perhaps great, we have all at times made decisions that have hurt ourselves or others. We have all at times chosen what is selfish over what is good; what we want over what God wants for us. In other words, we have all sinned. In small ways and great, we have sinned. Now we know from experience that when we hurt someone a block appears in our relationship that needs to be cleared, a wound that cries out for healing. We also know that even after we have recognised our fault, shame or fear often holds us back from seeking that healing. How can I face my loved one again? Will they, can they, forgive me?

Christ’s arms stretched on the Cross teach us that shame and fear of rejection have no place in our relationship with God. The Father sent his Son out of love for the world. The Cross is the guarantee of that love. But more than that, it is also the sign of our healing and forgiveness. Just as the Cross defeated death; so too did it defeat sin. Just as life has the victory over death, so grace and mercy has the victory over sin. Perhaps there is a block in our relationship with God, perhaps a wound that cries out for healing. In this year of mercy, let us be encouraged by Pope Francis to seek God’s forgiveness and healing in the sacrament of confession and to encounter there the warm embrace of the Father’s love for us.