He is Risen, Alleluia!
As Christians and people of good will wish each other a Happy Easter, I would like to share with you the impact this annual celebration has had on my understanding and belief in the Resurrection, in my childhood, teenage years and as an adult.
As the youngest child in my family, I grew up feeling an overwhelming sense of being protected by my siblings and parents at all times. Although my family was not religious- in the strict sense of church going- Easter was always felt as, what I describe, a joyful quietness. The abundance of chocolate we see nowadays at Easter was not there in my childhood experience. In its place there were lots of sombre religious films and the corresponding ‘sacred’ music broadcasted on all radio stations. Without the formal ‘religious wrappings’, the Easter story taught me then to gain a sense of gratitude for the little we had as a family, as well as thankfulness for being the recipient of my parents acts of love and care.
Gradually, that protective family environment around me was taken away and reluctantly I felt pushed into the big stage of life! It was then I guess, when a new understanding of Easter started to develop in me. The exciting way out of childhood found me committing myself to attending church formally, including ‘getting up to date’ with my sacraments. It is then, when the Easter season, for me, transformed into a busy time, with the requirement to attend all the liturgies in the company of friends and under the watch of religious mentors. A rather bewildering highlight of these youthful days involves me taking on the role of Jesus in a live re-enactment of Via Crucis, not once, but twice parading semi-naked through my hometown followed by hundreds of people! Where was my sense of embarrassment I wonder!? Easter then, became an opportunity to renew friendships and further my growth of belonging to a larger community, church and society. Through these rituals, I also began to understand and use the ‘religious’ language of Easter as an invitational event to reconcile God and people.
My adult experience of Easter has been marked by my wife and I deciding to become missionaries in the UK more than twenty years ago. This meant that as a family – both, intentionally and unintentionally- we embarked in an adventure to go beyond the boundaries of our own faith community. Once again, this has led me to experience the Easter story differently. As we journey with people in vulnerable circumstances, asylum seekers and refugees, as well as with people of other faiths and none, I have begun to discover what I think is a new and most challenging meaning of the reconciliation we commemorate at Easter. We are God’s hurting people who feel separated from one another, needing to reconcile with each other, and in need to offer each other God’s forgiving love and care. In that way, Easter has become for me, less about God and more about what I recommit to every year.
In light of this and as we hear once again the story of the empty tomb, I offer a personal renewed Easter commitment which springs out of three learnings of Easters past. First, that I will continue working so that all people experience the protection and shelter I found in my family when I was a child, secondly, that I will respect, honour and uphold whatever narratives and symbols people choose to express their hopes for a better future and finally, that I will continue to learn to channel God’s reconciling love to my loved ones, myself and those I don’t yet love.
I take this opportunity to wish you and your families a very Happy Easter!