A visitor stands by Spanish artist Diego Velazquez’s painting The Crucified Christ in Madrid April 20. CNS photo/Susana Vera, Reuters

There is mercy and it’s the Resurrection

  • April 28, 2022

Alleluia! He is risen!

The only real sin, says St. Isaac of Nineveh, is not paying attention to the Resurrection.

On Easter Sunday, I fought my way home from church, almost unable to move on account of the Easter Bunny Parade. The bunny was big, bright and loud, disrupting all things, impossible to avoid. The Easter proclamation, not so much. Why is the Resurrection so much easier to miss than the big bunny?

If we who know the Gospel, and have heard the cry — “He is not here! He is risen!” — if we do not proclaim it, how will it be known?

It’s dangerous to proclaim, though. Not necessarily because we will be attacked and killed (though many have been), but because we are under judgment of the word we speak. If we proclaim Christ raised from the dead, and are wrong, then we are pitiable, says St. Paul. But if we proclaim Christ raised from the dead, and by our lives witness the opposite, then we are in grave danger.

The recent story is told of a monk, an elder, who one Easter Sunday cried, “He is not risen!” Not risen, because the monks’ lives were so full of envy and bitterness towards each other that they were witnessing the opposite.

One of the common ways we ignore the Resurrection is by indulging in “compare and despair.” Have you ever caught yourself comparing yourself with someone in your parish or community? That person is better than I, or worse. She suffers more, carries a smaller cross, Jesus likes her better than me. 

Comparing ourselves with others is so common, so insidious a difficulty, that we might make the mistake of thinking it petty and insignificant. Yet it’s the other way around. Comparison breeds envy, while envy breeds bitterness and quarreling. In the Resurrection’s light, each of us is claimed by mercy for new life and asked only to let ourselves be pulled out of hell like Adam and Eve. Mercy and forgiveness are poured out; it does not matter who is ahead or behind us.

Easter is not about bunnies, but the “great mercy.” We are all like Judas and Peter, running away from the one who alone is our life. But Peter, at Easter breakfast, allowed Christ’s mercy to flow into each of the wounds his three denials had torn open in his soul. Peter allowed his ears to hear the weeping, joyous voices of the women who first proclaimed the Easter mercy.

Instead of receiving the great mercy, we might grumble about what fellow Christians are doing. Instead of walking humbly in our own place, we might clamour for the big place. Like James and John, we want prestige and power, and we’re willing to muscle anybody out of the way to get it. What could result except division and chaos? Unless we, who hold the words of everlasting life, pay attention to the Resurrection, how will others ever know its truth?

The world will judge “our God” by our witness of who God is.

What happens when we proclaim the Resurrection and at the same time deny the Gospel, whether by blessing killing or trying to destroy the parish council member on the other side of the table from us? How do we, who at times have handed Christ over to Pilate, witness the Resurrection? Except in the repentance of Peter.

One Lenten day, I was listening to a lifelong church-goer who herself has suffered many things, in her parents, children, life and work — and accompanies others through their suffering. “The more people you know,” she mused, “the more pain you’re aware of. If you walk alongside them, you can’t help but be touched. There’s no magic way through; you have to feel the pain. You start by acknowledging how big the pool of hurt is. God speaks in the hearts of ordinary people; they listen.”

She witnesses the Resurrection with her life as well as her words, not by being in a pink Easter bunny cloud that denies pain and sorrow, nor by putting down others or herself, but by being steeped in mercy. She shows a mercy that does not need to decide who’s first. There’s a mercy that feels the pain and does not run away, that continues to proclaim the Resurrection though death is all around and others are afraid to hear, that weeps in the shadows but knows they do not overcome the light. 

Hers is not a story you will see trumpeted aloud. It is the story of someone today proclaiming the Gospel, by word and deed. Instead of “compare and despair,” this mercy proclaims the truth the world aches for and does not know how to reach — but which reaches down into the present sorrow, pain and violence, not to scold but to succour and raise up. 

As the song says, “there is mercy in this world.” Here is the Resurrection.

Shall we pay attention? 

(Marrocco can be reached at mary.marrocco@outlook.com.)