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Reflection by Deacon Russ for Easter Sunday

Easter is not about bunnies and baskets and butterflies. Easter is about a body that somehow got loose. It’s about a dead Jesus, horribly crucified, who came back to challenge us. And that scares us. Easter is about a Jesus who while alive was so radical, so countercultural that the prevailing culture killed him. Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God, which he described as feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, in short, being concerned about others. He spoke about forgiving one’s enemies as a condition for being forgiven ourselves. He said that we do not live by bread alone. He spoke of compassion and he gave everyone he met a second chance. He said that we were to absolutely believe in God and God’s wild, wild love for us. And what’s more – and this is the clincher for which he was killed by the culture – he actually did those things. He fed the poor and healed the sick and took time with friends and prayed and threw out the money-changers, hugged the children, and had little patience for hypocrites. His choices. His values. And his culture could do nothing but nail him to a cross. He was a threat to the world as it was and is more of a threat now that he’s footloose after the resurrection.

Central in our Easter celebration are light and life. For most of us, someone gave us Baptism when we were an infant. Someone received a candle in our name, a candle that represented the light of Christ. St. Paul tells us, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might have newness of life. “For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.” Today we are called to ask ourselves – have I really accepted baptism in my own life? Have I truly allowed Jesus to direct my life? Have I truly allowed Jesus to be the light for me?

The new life and new light isn’t simply for our own gain. God speaks again, “Let there be light.” The challenge of Easter is for us to bring the light to a world still darkened by disbelief and sin, by sickness and racism, by selfishness and pride. The challenge for us is to be as radical and as counter-cultural as Jesus was. In the simple smile, the helping hand, the listening ear, the caring act we make resurrection happen. If you are not able to join us at Mass today, renew at home your Baptismal promises that compel us to action. Heaven is not something we long for in the future. In many ways it already began for us at our baptism, through the power of the Holy Spirit, when each of us was united to our Lord in a profound way. And, therefore, in a sense, heaven is something we can begin to experience right now, in this time and place, whenever we allow the power of the resurrection help us experience life in a whole new way, as new creations, seeing, acting and loving as God does.

We began Lent on Ash Wednesday with these words: “Remember that you are dust. Remember that you are loved.” Jesus calls us out of darkness and death and gives us each the ability to make His presence real for others, to be the life and light for others. If we just allow God to work through us, if we just strive to be that unique reflection of his love he created each of us to be, then we will come out of the tomb with him and live eternally. Our lives have meaning and purpose and beauty when they are united to his life.

Empty tomb? Doesn’t sound too bad. May the emptiness in each of us be filled by every good thing God offers, not just this Easter day, but every day, every time we need the power of the resurrection to make a real and lasting difference in our lives. The tomb is empty but the world is full. The Savior lives. May his life change the world. May His light and life change us. Alleluia!

If you have a brief faith reflection on today’s reading that you would like to share, please send it to me at deaconruss@holyspiritunoh.org.