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Why we can expect to be loved

BAPTISM
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Because Christ is risen, everything is different—even if it doesn’t feel like it very often.

So …. Easter Sunday has come and gone, and all the chocolate has been eaten and all the lilies have faded and it’s still the Easter Season and we suspect that we’re supposed to feel something during that time (up to and including being “overcome with Paschal joy” as it says in the First Easter Preface of the Novus Ordo Missae), but you’re just not feeling it … Why not? And what does that “failure to feel it” mean?

Well, maybe you’re not feeling it because on Easter Monday you went back to work and it seems that nothing and no one has changed—not even you. Maybe you’re not overcome with Paschal joy because the habits of sin that you fought against during Lent are still there—perhaps hungrier than ever. And maybe you’re not feeling it, even though we’re told that “We are an Easter people and ‘Alleluia!’ is our song!” because, well, you’ve just not met very many “Easter people” and don’t really know what the word “Alleluia” means anyway … with or without an exclamation point after it.

Of course, if the sum total of the Easter Season is to exhort, goad or shame people into ginning up giddy emotions to a prolonged and fevered pitch—then such an Easter Season is probably not humane or divine. Normal people can’t will themselves into long stretches of giddiness, or even fervor. That intensity just isn’t sustainable. Marriage is meant to last beyond the honeymoon, and Christian discipleship is meant to last beyond Easter Sunday. In both cases, there is a lot of work to be done, and it isn’t possible, desirable or necessary to feel good about that work constantly.

Like marriage, which redefines everything in a person’s life, the fact of the resurrection of Christ is the defining event of all of creation, all of human history, and of each individual life.

Because Christ is risen, everything is different—even if it doesn’t feel like it very often.

In quiet times of prayer, in dark moments of solitude that border on loneliness, in the fatigued anxiety we feel as we wonder how we can face tomorrow if tomorrow comes—in such moments, we would do well to ask, “Christ is risen—what of it?”

If Christ is not now our crucified, risen, and reigning king, then we are still in thrall to sin and death, and there is no reason to go on. Only if Christ received the worst of evils and overcame them by rising from the dead, only then can we dare to love, expect to be loved, and even become eager to hand on life and faith to the next generation. Only if our crucified and risen king, who was faithful unto death and loved his own unto the end, is returning to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire—only then can we dare to hope for justice and for mercy. And only then can we speak of good being brought out of evil and of repentance leading to glory.

When the secularized world looks at our celebration of Easter and asks in bewilderment and scorn “What difference does it make?” we have to be ready, willing and able to give a good answer. The difference that Easter makes, whether anyone or any group feels it or not at any given moment, is that Christ’s resurrection is love’s vindication. Because of Easter, we know that it is not foolish to love, to sacrifice, to pray or to hope. It is not foolish or wasteful to beget a new generation of children on this earth and prepare them to be citizens and heirs of Heaven. And it is not foolish to strive for a joy and completion that this world cannot give.

Because Christ our king is crucified, risen, reigning and returning, it becomes possible, necessary and praiseworthy to worship God, love our neighbor, forgive our enemies, and proclaim the Gospel to all the world. Because the Risen Christ is eager to share his victory over sin and death with us, it makes sense to provide for the body and soul of every person—both clean water to drink and the living water of Baptism; the bread made by human hands and the Living Bread from Heaven; the words and numbers of reason and science and the Eternal Word of Truth spoken by the Father. All these great tasks, tasks that engaged the lives and deaths of countless saints known and unknown, are now possible, necessary and praiseworthy, because Christ is risen. The Easter Season does not offer us a guarantee of happy feelings, but it does offer a remedy for despair—and that is something that the world cannot give.

When I write next, I will continue our series of meditations on Easter. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.

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