As the title of this column suggests, “It’s all about Hope.” I’m honored to be able to contribute to this hope, especially during this time of Easter. It’s all about resurrection and new life for those joined to the life of Jesus.
It’s a great time of the year and a bit of “dated” humor can give us an important insight. It’s an old story, which I’ll shorten for this occasion.
It’s about a pastor who is visiting his third grade class during Lent. He asks if any one of them can explain Easter. The story continues with one youngster describing Easter as a time of decorated trees and gifts. Another explains Easter in terms of jack-o-lanterns and trick or treating, much to the chagrin of the priest.
Finally, one youngster confidently replies that Easter is that time that comes right after Lent. Jesus suffers and dies on the cross and is taken down and placed in the tomb. After three days Jesus comes out of the tomb.
Father is excited and states yes, that’s what Easter is.
The third grader continues, “And if he sees his shadow, he goes back into the tomb for another 40 days of Lent!”
Great story. I use it often, but with an important explanation.
On Easter morning I picture Jesus at the threshold of the tomb. I’m sure there was sun and warm breezes as Jesus was standing there looking out. I’m sure there were flowers and trees swaying with the wind.
With sunlight there are, of course, shadows that Jesus also saw. With these shadows I imagine the dark shadows of sinfulness, pain, suffering, death. He saw wars, murder, hunger and poverty through the years and millennia leading to our time and beyond.
These terrible shadows are frightening. It would have been easy for Jesus to “go back into the tomb where he was safe and comfortable.” It might have been a bit cold and damp, but at least he knew what to expect. It would have been simpler with that approach.
That fearful attitude is all too often shared by his followers. Each one of us has moments where we fail to share the light of Christ due to hopelessness or despair.
The Easter message of Jesus was not a message of going back. The message is one of hope and courage confronting the shadows of sinfulness and death that remain even after the redemptive suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yes, there’s still work that needs to be done. The Easter message is a message of not being afraid; there are still shadows that need our attention.
Those shadows are the shadows confronted each day by the followers — the church of Jesus Christ. We use his light to dispel the dark shadows. We use the light of God’s love to make things a bit easier for those in hospitals, nursing homes and prisons. We use the light of faith in offering hope to those who find life overwhelming due to the darkness of the shadows in which they find themselves.
The shadows are still with us, but with the work of the church, people find it easier to deal with them. The light of the Resurrection shines through us today with Jesus at our side. The world is brighter, but there’s still a long way to go.
Lent found us as people of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It also found us as people reaching out and doing wonderful things. That’s the people of God not hiding in fear, but following our Lord Jesus in confronting the shadows with the light that will never fail or grow dim. Share the light generously. There are too many shadows still dominant in our world. We are indeed “Heralds of Hope!”