Every Easter we come again to the moments that define us as a believing people. The Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection — these sacramental celebrations, far more than Christmas or any other feast of the Christian calendar, set us apart from every other religious tradition in the world.
In every reading from Scripture during Holy Week, we encounter the One who lived, suffered, died and rose again to new life so that we too might have life. These extraordinary days of the Triduum, beginning with Holy Thursday which we are about to celebrate, are like no others. They’re “holy” in the deepest sense of the word: They are “other than” our daily reality. They are true, historical events that are also above and outside of history, and they are alive again in a new way at every Easter down through the centuries.
The real person who is Jesus Christ is not a clay figure who can be molded and changed to suit the attitudes of the world. The Gospel is more than a collection of warm sentiments about a man who lived a long time ago and became a positive role model for us all. The message of Easter is far more beautiful than that — and also much more demanding.
The good news of Jesus Christ is bad news for the enemies of the God who is the source of all truth and mercy, justice and human dignity. That’s why Golgotha happened. That’s why no Christian message of hope would exist without the bloody nails of the cross. There was no “virtual reality” in the crucifixion. The blood and the dying were brutally real. And that’s also why the Resurrection is no illusion.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” and died for us, and rose again for us, so that we — our flesh and spirit — would be redeemed; so that every one of us, no matter how sinful or confused, or broken or handicapped, would be restored to the beauty God intended for each of us.
We can only be the persons that God intended, we can only be fully human, by following Jesus Christ. That means being nailed with him to the cross and dying to ourselves. But it also means Christ’s empty tomb and Easter. That’s the good news, the profoundly joyful news, for every person in every generation. That’s why we proclaim Jesus Christ. That’s why we preach him passionately, without compromise, and with hearts on fire with hope.
That’s the meaning of witness.
That’s why we must live as missionaries. And it is missionaries Jesus calls each one of us to be.
May God grant all of us the gift of new life in his Son during this coming Easter season, and throughout the coming year.