To be an Easter people

By  Vivian Ligo, Catholic Register Special
  • March 20, 2008

{mosimage}What does it mean to be an Easter people? The Creed will give us some clues. Crafted as a testimony to the far-reaching significance of the presence in our midst of the Risen Lord, the Creed is our particular take on reality that in turn sets the course of our lives. It makes categorical claims about how we understand God, creation, humanity, the culmination of human history and the ultimate meaning of existence.

Faith in something or someone is constitutive of our being human. Even those who say they do not believe in God must believe in something else. Nature always abhors a vacuum. But unless the object of our faith is real, our faith itself runs aground, leaving us empty and frustrated.

In Jesus Christ we find our faith affirmed. More importantly, from Him we receive the revelation of the truth, goodness and splendour of God. Spoken of in relational terms, the God Jesus reveals is not only believed to exist but also believed in to be Abba, to be Someone whom we can entrust ourselves unconditionally. Therefore, in praying

the Creed, we are actually saying that despite everything that happens or will happen in our lives, we entrust ourselves to God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and Earth.

In doing so, we are admitting that we cannot just rely upon our own selves to be the “master of our fate, the captain of our soul.” We are not leaving everything to blind fate or cruel chance. Neither are we limiting ourselves to what is manageable and controllable. Nor will we settle for a sort of quiet and grudging desperation.

To believe in God is to open wide our arms to embrace and accept all that is because in Jesus that is precisely what God has done. God has come so close to being human like us, to treading the paths we tread toward a future shaped by faulty, yet sometimes heroic, human decisions. That is why human history is the way it is — full of pain and horror, bloodshed and vengeance, anger and sorrow, yet also of courage and virtue, healing and forgiveness, kindness and joy. To be an Easter people is to be right in the midst of ongoing history because it is there that God effects our salvation. 

To believe in God also means to believe like God, who in Jesus stakes His faithfulness to the very end, because the world comes from His goodness and that no matter the fatality of evil, goodness will overcome. Enlivened and emboldened by the presence of the Risen Lord in the Holy Spirit, we assent to this gift of salvation and become ourselves Christ’s Easter people, His communion of saints.

We try to live life the way He did by proclaiming the Gospel, healing the sick, forgiving sinners, bringing about reconciliation, celebrating life, seeking holiness, gathering the lost, showing mercy, making peace and suffering for what is right and just. All these we do right where humanity aches and struggles because “the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men and women of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well (Gaudium et Spes, 1.1).”

We try to live life the way He did. So must we die the way He did because once we begin to be responsible for even only one person, once we attempt to do good despite sin, we also encounter the power of evil. We realize how heavily laden the world really is. The Cross becomes indeed the sign of contradiction.

The salvific intent of God becomes out of step with the chaos of world history. To be an Easter people is also to go against the current even if it means handing ourselves over into the darkness of death. But we remain faithful still through, with and in Christ. As Easter people, we hold to the conviction that there will be the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

“The deeper a soul is bound to God, the more completely surrendered to grace, the stronger will be its influence on the form of the church. Conversely, the more an era is engulfed in the night of sin and estrangement from God the more it needs souls united to God. And God does not permit a deficiency. The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night. But for the most part the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly the decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed” (Benedicta of the Cross, OCD).

(Ligo is a theology professor at St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto.)

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