- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories ~ Easter and the Touch of Hope
Sometimes it is hard to hope. The conflicts around the world seem endless, as one winds down another erupts. Political extremes seem increasingly sharp and any idea of compromise or mutual respect for difference appears impossible. Global warming has raised issues of human survival that are new to our horizon. Many face the specter of serious and debilitating illness. Others struggle with relationships that are wounded and limping. There is so much of our lives that is beyond our control, so much to challenge us as we look to the future. Whether globally or personally, indeed, often it is hard to hope.
Then we come to the Easter season and we hear the stories of the resurrection. We see how this risen Jesus changed the vision of his disciples. The resurrection was not just about Jesus himself. It was an earth-shaking event which changed the whole story of humanity. With the raising of Jesus there was a new creation. The vision of the disciples sees a world made new.
The Easter season lasts for 50 days, beginning with the Easter Vigil. It is significant that as we begin the season, we focus on readings from the Old Testament. Even more significant is the fact that the first reading we hear from our scriptures is drawn from the very beginning of Old Testament. The Book of Genesis in its opening chapter presents us with a poetic description of Creation (Gen.1:1-2:2), announcing: In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while the spirit of God swept over the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.’
From the very beginning, God is a life-giving God. Easter is a testimony, that the spirit of God continues to be life-giving and that the great sign of this is in the person of Jesus the Christ and in his resurrection. Easter is the celebration of the continuing creative spirit of God among us.
In the gospel reading of this Sunday (John 20:19-31) the risen Jesus appears to his disciples, locked in a room, cowering in fear after the crucifixion. He greets them with “Peace be with you.” In fact, this is more than a simple greeting. It is a call given to them. For immediately, Jesus tells them that his mission is now their mission and he breathes on them the Spirit. This is the Spirit of God that the creation story in the Book of Genesis points to as the origin of life. Now there will be a new creation and the disciples of Jesus are sent to bring it into existence down to our own day.
How are we to bring a new creation into existence? The Spirit the first disciples received is the Spirit of the risen Jesus and it is this same Spirit that is given to the generations of disciples even to our day. This new creation is to be marked by peace and by the unity of humanity. This was Jesus’ mission. It is now our mission. We are called to heal the wounded, reconcile the divided and mend the broken of our world. To do so is the path to the peace that is God’s dream for all creation.
Easter and the resurrection of Jesus is not the end of a story. Rather it is a beginning, a new beginning, truly the advent of a new creation. The mission given us is to bring this new creation to its completion, its fulfillment in our own time.
Sometimes it is hard to hope. But Easter allows hope to spring into our world. May the Spirit of the risen Jesus move us all to be the voice of such hope to all humanity. May we accept our mission as healers, reconcilers and peace-makers for a new creation, a touch of hope for our world.