When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."
One of the challenges I face as priest and father is how to explain theological and liturgical calendars to both church and children. For many, Easter is over after last Sunday’s celebrations, and we would certainly miss many who would have visited and shared in our Easter liturgy last Sunday. The Easter lilies are still very present. However, the kids are asking if there are any remaining Easter baskets or a follow-up to the Easter egg hunt. How can one explain that Easter is both an event while also being an unfolding season? Should one liken Easter to that of a flower which burst forth its first plumes, and its beauty is an ongoing process of revelation? How can one share this to a world where everything is instantaneous, and joys are fleeting like the words on a Twitter account? The Altar servers laugh when I speak of Face Book as if it is only for the old people. They prefer other platforms which are more immediate and short-lived. On Snapchat pictures quickly disappear and all you need to tweet a message is twenty-two characters. I wonder how Shakespeare or Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King would feel about Twitter?
Thus, I am called to highlight the two factors which I believe dominate the Easter story: silence and time. During Lent & Holy Week, we explored the power of silence in the midst of the oppressive weight of human brokenness and cruelty. Silence, when the forces of the world shout claims of victory; silence in the face of seeming loss or persecution or threats can be a tremendous act of faith. It is said that history is written by the victors. But, in time, all truths are revealed.
St Paul writes, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!(1Cor.15:55&57)
Easter then is about the unfolding of the flower of God’s power after humanity has done it’s very worst to crush it.Easter is about the continuation of God’s creative power. As the Negro spiritual would declare “No grave can hold my body down”, the human spirit cannot be held down because at its very heart is the spirit which God breathed into us at the first creation.
Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Gen.2:7)
Easter gives Christians the ability to look at the dark abyss over and over and declare ‘let there be light’. Life is the Easter story.
Easter is for those who may have missed the first creation and can now fully participate in a all of its creative splendor. The first creation was God’s seven-day unfolding event.
During the new creation event as reported by St. John, we witness the disciples as they huddled together on the evening of that first Easter. They were still wrapped in a shroud of fear. Good Friday had taken them into the very abyss of despair and brokenness. God had declared “let there be light” to Mary Magdalene, but the disciples had not yet experienced this special light. As they duddled in fear and in silence, the light of Christ breaks in upon them and declares a new creation is about to unfold. But, to share in this special light, one must be clothed with the right spirit. “Peace be with you” can be both an intimate greeting and a promise upon which one can build a new belief system, a new spirituality. God breaks the silence in His Time. Let noise makers be warned!
In the silence of the empty tomb, there was fear, but now there is astonishment and the possibility for hope. This now is an opportunity for God to create something new in each of us. But only if we allow the Holy Spirit and God's love to work through us; peace comes to us wafting in the silence. There is hope and promise for new possibilities through our love for one another, our responses to the teachings of Jesus and the silent whispers of the Holy Spirit. Our work is now to imbibe this new creative spirit then take it and declare God’s renewed hope to the world.
They, who are on the brink of losing their faith, are now invited to look at the wonders of God in His silent creative power and be reminded of His sovereignty. Those who seek a proclamation do so not in shouts of acclamation but in whispered confessions of faith like the disciple Thomas, did seven days later. Those who carry His message do so through acts of love and charity. To use the symbolism of bread: The silence is in the yeast, secreted and hidden in the flour, waiting for the loving action of our hands to turn it into a loaf of bread. This is a process of love, faith and work combined with the willingness to wait for the unfolding and the rising. This is the eucharistic promise and hope that draws us, renews us then sends us.
The Easter Story is an unfolding event! When our expectations are dashed, we can find hope if we are willing to wait upon God. When we are faced with silence, we hear the voice of God. It is our job as Christians to hold on to what we know even as we await the full revelation. The Easter story declares God loves us even beyond our wildest expectations. It is our job to tell the Story of the Resurrection. And it is our job to share and pass on this love to those who sit in silence and hope. To the Good news packaged in fresh expectations. Our urban communities look to us in desperate hope. Easter is about fresh starts and new beginnings based upon Great expectations!
Christ Is Risen The Lord is risen indeed!