A blessed Easter to all, the holiest of days in the entire liturgical calendar. We spent our journey through Lent reflecting on the Stations of the Cross, where we meditated on the tremendous sufferings Jesus endured for us on His ascent to Calvary and His ultimate crucifixion. We then reflected on Palm Sunday and the jubilant celebration in the streets of Jerusalem because the promised Messiah had finally arrived. Imagine the confusion, as well as the emotional and spiritual suffering, all the people experienced – going from the highest of highs on Palm Sunday, to the lowest of lows on Good Friday. Not one of them could have anticipated the cruel execution of their Savior and so they spent three days in darkness, not understanding what had happened or what would come next. Then, on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead and gave new meaning to the word hope!
“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (CCC #1817). The Resurrection teaches us many things about hope. From a theological standpoint, the Resurrection shows us that God has power over death and sin and gives us the hope of eternal salvation. It also prefigures how our own bodies will be resurrected at the end of time and how our souls will be rejoined to our glorified bodies for eternity. However, since we spent Lent applying our own personal life experiences to the Stations of the Cross, I want to look at how Jesus’ Resurrection can also apply to our lives in a practical sense. (If you have not read the Lenten reflections, you can find them here.)
As we journeyed through the Stations of the Cross, we considered each station from our own point of view, empathetically understanding what Jesus went through – not in a literal, but in a proportional sense – because we too have experienced difficult things. We know the feelings of betrayal or being mocked and jeered at. We know the heavy burden of the crosses we each individually carry and how we stumble and fall under the weight of them. We have people in our lives who have comforted us and helped us carry our crosses whenever possible. We have been the victims of unjust treatment and we know what it feels like to be humiliated and exposed. All of these things are true because humanity is fallen and broken as a result of sin. Jesus went through all of these things as well – to a much more severe degree – because He entered into our broken humanity and lived in solidarity with us. So, when we go through these trials in life, we can think of them as Lents, or ways of the cross, in which we can yoke our cross to Jesus’ cross and walk with Him to the bitter end of our trial. Sometimes our burdens are on the lighter and shorter side and sometimes they are long and laborious. Either way, they are all redemptive for us if we do them with Jesus.
Jesus finished His walk up to Calvary, was crucified, and died on His cross. Then, He was buried in His tomb and, for three days, no one understood what was happening or knew what would come next. How often have you carried your cross and endured your journey without understanding why it was happening to you? Or, perhaps you have wondered what good can come from a particular situation, or you’ve been unable to see a resolution at all. We are told that God can bring meaning into all things and that His plan is always good, however it is often difficult to see how that will happen when we are right in the middle of our three days of darkness.
Yet, what happened on the third day? Jesus rose from the dead! The very worst had happened to Him, yet He conquered it and destroyed it. What’s more, He did not come back in His ravaged and beaten body. The flesh that was falling from His bones three days earlier was all healed and He no longer bore any bruises. His body had been glorified, perfected. In other words, even after everything He endured in His body, it came out better than it had been even before His Passion. What remained were the holes left from the nail marks and the wound from where the spear pierced His side, but these were also glorified and made new. The few remaining markings on Jesus’ body enabled the Apostles to recognize Him and come to believe in the truth of what was happening. The Resurrection gives us the hope that, on the other side of our suffering, there is something new and better waiting to emerge.
Imagine, for a moment, being in the darkness, but then, the large stone is rolled away and you walk out of the darkness into the light. Things that you could not understand before, suddenly make sense. You can look back and see how God was working on you through your struggles in ways that were impossible to see previously. In order for light and glory to be seen, they have to be juxtaposed to darkness and trial. Our suffering serves a purpose far greater than anything we can see while we are in the midst of it. Once we do emerge, we will be healed from all of the brokenness, and the things that cause us pain will shine brightly for all to see. Perhaps one or two small wounds will remain in a glorified state, but those will serve to give others hope. We can use our glorified wounds to evangelize others so they, too, can find hope in the resurrection that occurs after their own way of the cross. Have you ever had an experience where, through God’s strength alone, you have successfully carried a cross to the top of your own Calvary, and afterward, gained a newness about you? Is it possible then, that newness, those glorified wounds, have shown through to others and perhaps enabled you to help someone else who is on their own Way of the Cross?
Throughout our various seasons of life, we go through many cycles of Lent and Easter. Easter always comes, however long it takes, because God promises us it will. Jesus has conquered darkness, death, and sin, so we can be assured they will not prevail in the world at large, and also not in each of our own individual lives and circumstances. We can live every single day with the hope that Easter will come again and again, as often as we need, so long as we use the hope to propel us forward on the difficult journey.
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