Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 25, 2002
Easter celebrates Jesus' humanity
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
Called "the holiest day of our Christian year," Easter certainly is that. It completes what Christmas starts: in December's darkness and cold, we rejoice in the birth of Jesus and his promise; in Easter's springtime, we celebrate the mystery of his death and resurrection.
The perennial liturgical cycle offers the comfort of the familiar over the course of a year. But this is not just any year.
Many people have had their lives turned upside down over the last few months - not only the loved ones of the 3,000 men, women and children killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, but also all those who were stunned by the horror and grief.
The Christmas holidays intensified the desire for many of us to stay close to home, to be with our families, to be grateful for all we had and to mourn for what we lost.
A little more time has passed now. Easter certainly includes family gatherings, feasting on traditional foods, children in new outfits munching on jelly beans from their baskets and hunting for coloured eggs.
The day, at its core, is overwhelmingly spiritual. Our own mortality and the mortality of those closest to us has a new context in this celebration of life over death and eternity over time.
It isn't a coincidence that in the Gospel according to John, the last miracle we see Jesus perform before he enters Jerusalem for the final time is the raising of Lazarus from the grave.
The event does more than foreshadow Jesus' own rising from the dead. It shows us his deep love for a friend and for each of us as an individual.
When Jesus was told that Lazarus was dying, he hesitated before going to his home in Bethany. Both Martha and Mary admonished Jesus that if he had been there earlier, their brother would not have died.
Jesus responds by doing three unforgettable things.
First, he spoke to those grieving as well as to the ages when he said: "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die" (11:25-26).
Then, overcome by grief for his friend and his bereaved loved ones, Jesus wept.
Even knowing what he intends to do, Jesus is still as human as he is divine, and he shows it.
And, finally, they all went to the tomb: "And Jesus looked upward and said, 'Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.'
When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!'" (11:41-43).
And Lazarus did!
For 2,000 years, people have probably wondered what Lazarus felt and thought in the moment he was recalled to this life.
I wonder, too, but I really can't imagine. And what were his sisters and other relatives and friends going through when, in an instant, their mourning turned to joy?
There are others I think about as well: on that day, like every day in the history of the world, people died and others were left to grieve in the normal cycle of life and death.
Until Easter morning.
For while our pain at the loss of a loved one is real, our consolation comes to us from Jesus himself whose first words on that first day of the week were to comfort the weeping Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus rose from the dead, he took us with him and broke death's power over us by exchanging time for eternity.
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