There is a great old Easter greeting: “We are an Easter people” to which hearers respond “and Alleluia is our song!”
I love this, and if I see you in this Easter Week, this Octave of Easter Sundays, you are welcome to greet me in this way.
The reason I need to be reminded that we are an Easter people is that I too often reduce the Easter life we are offered to ideas and categories, words and formulas, customary ways of thinking and acting.
These are all good things, words, ideals, categories and formulas. We need them. They can keep us focussed and enable us to move together.
But yesterday in his Easter Homily Pope Francis warned us against each one of them before continuing:
“Let us make Jesus, the Living One, rise again from all those tombs in which we have sealed him. Let us set him free from the narrow cells in which we have so often imprisoned him. Let us awaken from our peaceful slumber and let him disturb and inconvenience us. Let us bring him into our everyday lives.”
Perhaps in reality we Christians prefer a faith that is Lenten and penitential, doing things to please and appease a God who too often seems distant, then feeling good about ourselves (and our faith lives) when we keep our penitential commitments.
Perhaps we are willing to follow a wise historical God-man as a talisman who lived long ago, as we anticipate a future paradise. But this is not a the living, vibrant, contemporary Christian faith that Christ offers us.
There’s something very safe and structured about Lent – and with good company we can (more or less) achieve all that we commit to doing without and all that we plan to do extra. Certainly Jesus welcomes our efforts as an expression of our heart’s desire and does not miss the opportunity to work in and through us.
However the resurrection of Jesus heralds a new era where we encounter the risen presence of God not so much in our well-intentioned practices and promises but in the present that is every moment, every circumstance planned or unplanned, welcome or unwelcome, is an opportunity for encounter with Jesus.
Francis reminds us that…
“…we continue to reduce faith to a talisman, making God a lovely memory from times past, instead of encountering him today as the living God who desires to change us and to change our world.
A Christianity that seeks the Lord among the ruins of the past and encloses him in the tomb of habit is a Christianity without Easter.
Yet the Lord is risen!
Let us not tarry among the tombs, but run to find him, the Living One!