Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday

Toward the end of the novel "The Count of Monte Cristo," Alexandre Dumas has his once-vengeful Count pen these words to the two characters toward whom he has acted with true mercy:

There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is
only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more.
He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience
supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die,
Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of living.

"Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and
never forget that until the day when God shall deign to
reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in
these two words, -- `Wait and hope.'

This is the message of Easter: Wait, and hope. Wait, for the fullness of God's plan to be revealed; hope, when to hope is to turn away from the cruel realities of life in joyful expectation that we are loved, and that the One who loves us will not abandon us to sorrow.

In this life we experience suffering, not only on our own accounts, but, most painfully as parents, on behalf of our children. The first tiny cuts and bruises a toddling infant sustains are a hideous reminder of mortality, something we can't even bear to think about when these babies are clasped to our hearts. To be a parent is to worry--but so it is, to be a child, a husband or wife, a family member or friend. To love at all in this vale of tears requires a mixture of courage and amnesia; we could never love at all, were our thoughts forever focused on the brevity of life and the inevitability of sorrow and pain, especially the pain of parting.

The eleven faithful Apostles knew this pain when they suffered through the events of Good Friday. It must have seemed ironic in a way that the only one of them to stand at the foot of the Cross, St. John, would probably have been the only one able to find any comfort at all in the hours that followed--not the comfort of implacable hope, for they hadn't yet understood what a miracle of joy would soon find them, but the comfort of knowing that he at least hadn't abandoned our Lord in His hours of agony, and that he had been able to care for Mary at our Lord's command. But even this would have been a cold comfort; as for the rest of them, perhaps only Peter felt the pain of betrayal, but they all knew they had abandoned Him in fear and terror.

Still caught in this fear, still hiding, still thinking their own final hours were approaching, they heard the staccato knock of the women at their door, and listened to their garbled but joyous message. The light of Easter was beginning to pierce through the gloom of sorrow; yet not until they had gone to see the empty tomb for themselves did the Apostles begin to dare to hope in a miracle that lay beyond all human experience.

And then He came to them, and spoke of peace. He was there; He was real, not a ghost, He was alive, He was risen.

In our own lives we will lose people we love, and we will be full of sorrow. But the miracle of the Resurrection means that those words, "Wait and hope," truly do contain the summit of human wisdom. Wait, for we will be reunited with them. Hope, for the God who is all goodness and all mercy desires our eternal happiness with even greater fervency than we do, and was willing to suffer a death of infamy to purchase it for us.

The time of our waiting is unknown to us, but it will seem so very brief, in retrospect. And when in the Heavenly Kingdom we are joyfully reunited with all the ones we loved, who had gone on before us, we will wonder at our former sorrow, and find it strange, as strange as the Apostles must have felt when they realized all that Jesus had been telling them before, that He would die, but that He would also rise.

He is risen! Let us wait in joy for His coming, and hope with love to see Him soon!

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