Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

There was a time when Easter was treated as a holiday greater than Christmas, just as it should be.  The birth of Christ is an important event in Christian history, to be sure, but it loses all meaning if there is no Easter because without Easter we have no resurrection.  There was a time not so very long ago when Spring Break was called Easter Break and stretched a week because it was scheduled to match with Holy Week - the week leading up to Easter. It was a time for attending Mass, reflecting on Christ's message and His sacrifice and what that means for each of us.

Eventually, the week that Easter was given was replaced with a single day - Good Friday - and Easter Break became Spring Break.  Detached from the holiday that had once given it real meaning and purpose, it became a week of partying and pleasure seeking.  Now, even Good Friday is rarely given a thought. It didn't make my son's school calendar, and it is not a recognized government holiday.

I am sad to say that I have even worked for organizations run by Christians who did not recognize Easter as a holiday. I think that this topsy-turvy backwards way of looking at Christ is symptomatic of the problems our society is facing in general.  We are all comfortable with Christ the harmless infant, who cannot challenge us and makes us feel good about being human.  We are most definitely not comfortable with confronting head-on the evil that we can do to one another.  We want to forget our sins, bury our shame, and hide our guilt.  We would simply rather not acknowledge that this kind of evil is not only possible at some point in the past, but possible here and now even in a culture that is supposedly more educated and more civil than those of the past.

However, there is a problem with ignoring sin.  Think of sin as a wound.  Even a small wound, if left ignored and untreated, can turn into a big infection and cause major problems for the body.  The longer the wound is neglected, the more dangerous the infection can become.  Eventually, it is possible for a tiny wound to become so infected that the body dies before it can heal.  Christ's crucifixion was not done so that we might wallow in our sins, or die from them, but to confront us with them so that we could get them treated and healed in order to save our lives.  Christ did not come to condemn us. He came to heal us.  That is the heart and soul of the Easter message: Stop ignoring your sins, bring them forward so that they might be healed and you might be given new life.

Of course, embracing this message takes real courage because it requires us to acknowledge our sins first.  We must acknowledge and accept responsibility for the harm our selfishness has done to others. We must take responsibility for the problems we have caused, seek forgiveness, and try to make amends.  We can not rationalize our behavior any longer by assuring ourselves it isn't that bad.  One look at the crucifix and we KNOW that it is that bad, and maybe worse.  Christ did not promise us that healing those wounds would be easy, or that it would be a one time thing and then we would be done forever.  He did promise us that it would be worth the work, the sacrifice, and the effort.  He did promise us that we would be hated by many because they would not understand what we were doing or why.

In all, the Easter message is a joyful one.  It is a promise that no matter how far we have gone on our path of sin, no matter how bad the things we have done in our past, there is hope for change.  So long as there is life and breath left to us, there is always hope that we can change and become a better person. The world may not believe our change is real, our friends and family may refuse to forgive our past, and the temptations to sin will be strong - but Christ has assured us He will be with us every step of the way and what is impossible for man is possible for Him.

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