Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
“So how was your Easter?” This was the question I overheard one man ask his friend the day after Easter, and I somehow expected him to say, “It was fine” or “It was good” or “It was great.” But I didn’t hear any of those responses, other than this one: “It was just another day.”
As a pastor, I don’t expect everyone to have a “cloud parting experience,” or to experience the “violent earthquake” that occurred once the “angel of the Lord came down from heaven … rolled back the stone and sat on it.” (Matthew 28:2) But it is my hope that each of us somehow and someway can recognize that the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus are not “ just ordinary days” out of the 365 days that we experience every year, but are life-changing events for us as individuals, as families, as nations and as a world.
If the birth or resurrection or ascension of Jesus doesn’t motivate us to step back, pause, reflect and take notice (at least for one day), if not for a season or a lifetime, there is a good chance few things in this life will take our breath away or cause us to say, “That was an aha moment that I will never forget.”
From his birth to his death, from the wood of the manger to the wood of the cross, Jesus was able to enter into history as the Word Incarnate, the Word Made Flesh, not just to take our breath away or to give us an aha moment, but to change our lives forever by coming into the world to dispel darkness. He defeated Satan on the cross by forgiving our sins, by reconciling us to his Father, by granting us the gift of salvation and by offering us an opportunity to live with him forever in a kingdom like no other, in a kingdom where there will be a “new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1). And in a kingdom where God “will wipe away every tear from [our eyes]” and where there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelations 21:4).
In the history of the world, there has never been a man, prophet, prince, lord or king who has even come close to elevating the status of man to the dignity that our God has given us, nor a king who has offered us a share in his kingdom like Jesus Christ, the King of Kings. Therefore, we as heirs to His kingdom, are called in one way or another to offer a spirit of gratitude (through our worship) on Christmas, on Easter and every day of our lives because of His gifts of creation, redemption, sanctification, justification, and salvation. His gifts of mercy and salvation are “out of this world” but are given to us in this world through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God has done everything in His power to get our attention regarding His everlasting love for us. If we don’t make ourselves available to His love, we just might miss it without even blinking twice and we might just end up saying, “Easter was just another day!”
I like what Peter Kreeft says about God’s love: “Why does God love us so much? (How much? Look at a crucifix.) Is there an answer to that question? Thank God there is not. For answers are always given from above downward, and there is nothing above love. Love transcends everything, even reason. When asked for a reason, love offers only itself.
“Love is absurd, thank God,” Kreft continues. “On the cross, the perfect God suffers our Hell so that we rebels and sinners might enjoy His Heaven. That is really absurd! And throughout salvation history, He does not sit on His perfect, eternal, divine dignity but acts like an angry, shouting, screaming parent when He sees His children choosing paths of self-destruction. He does not confine Himself to the still, small voice, the mystic whisper. He shouts —because most of us are nearly deaf. He is utterly undignified. He lowers Himself, even before the Incarnation, to our level.”
And so there you have it: Over 2,000 years ago, an angel sat upon a stone, rolled it back and sat upon it, but not before there was a violent earthquake. Sometimes God gets our attention through the lightning and thunderstorms of life, sometimes God gets our attention through the rolling away of the stone and the resurrection, and sometimes God gets our attention through the gentle sound of a whisper. The point of the matter is this: Are we listening and attentive to the voice and presence of our God, especially during the major events of His life, such as His birth, death, resurrection and ascension, or are we somewhat complacent and indifferent to the one who is our Lord of Lords and King of Kings?
I will never know the name or the story of the man who said that “Easter was just another day,” but I pray that this man will eventually come to the realization that Easter is not just for one day, but lasts for a period of seven weeks as we celebrate the Lord’s 40 days on earth after his resurrection, as we honor his ascension into heaven, and as we await the power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, 10 days after his ascension.
Easter Sunday is just the beginning of this glorious season, but how blessed we are to be able to enter into this great mystery for a period of 50 days from Easter Sunday all the way up to Pentecost, and even then some. As Christians, we can’t box Easter into just one day or one season. We can’t confine Easter any more than we can contain Jesus or capture the air. Easter is here, the stone has been rolled away and Jesus has risen from the dead, compelling you and me to proclaim His resurrection 365 days a year through our words and our actions. As Christians, we are Easter people, now and forever!
So, how was your Easter Sunday? How is your Easter Season going?
Rev. Vialpando is the priest at St. Marguerite Catholic Church in Tooele.