Lent, Peace Spirituality

Holy Week: Reflection for Easter – Life is stronger than death; Rise up to live again

by Rev. Paul Lansu
Senior Policy Advisor, Pax Christi International

[Ed. Note: This is the final entry in a series of reflections throughout Lent and Holy Week from Rev. Paul Lansu. See all of these reflections and other resources at this link.]

Acts 10:34a, 37-43 | Ps 118 (117) | Col 3:1-4 | John 20:1-9

Today is Easter. How will we celebrate, being that Easter is the feast of the victory of life over all negativity?

Hopelessness pollutes our life space. So many streams flow into the sea of our despair. Long-term unemployment scars many a heart. Violence awakens fear in the vulnerable, young and old. Famine gnaws away at the fabric of our society. Scandals in high places erode trust. It gets easier and easier to paint a grim picture of a pointless life ending in disastrous faith. But the darker the night, the more significant is the torch.

Our torch is the risen Christ. This Easter, as perhaps never before, Christ’s message is vital for the people of our time. It is vital because it is life giving. It is a message of hope highlighting that the God who made the world and its people has both safely in his hands and his helping is nearer than the air we breathe. In fact, he is living in our hearts and in our relationships. He has taken on our human condition even unto death. Rising from the dead, he has changed utterly the meaning of our lives.

Search and find

“Who are you looking for?” Jesus asks Mary Magdalene as she weeps by the side of the empty grave. The Easter Gospel left behind the women and disciples confused. They did not know where the Lord was and did not yet understand anything about rising from the dead. They also experienced deep loneliness and abandonment in their great loss and distress. Where are you Lord? When we need you most, where are you? Why should we believe in a good God of Life, when he could have prevented so much unnecessary suffering symbolised on Good Friday?

The resurrected Christ is asking to be found or discovered. If we really look, we can see him everywhere. He can be found among people who pray and work together in a constructive way, in open-minded people who follow a brighter light than the glimmer of their own candle, and in people who have become wise enough not to judge others because they prefer to give life rather than be excluded from it.

We are made to love and to be loved, to reach out in forgiveness, generosity and trust to every brother and sister, especially those in greatest need. Following the torch of his example, we are called to keep hope alive for all those whose lives we touch, hope in the power of God’s love working in and through us for one another. To undermine this hope is the essence of evil.

In a hopeless situation, prayer gives us an instrument for inner peace and solidarity. Through our faith and prayer, we connect with each other in a way that we cannot explain but can feel. This feeling becomes an uplifting presence that translates itself in silence, music, words, body language and empathy. We literally stand next to each other and turn our eyes in the same direction for hope. Standing empty-handed together before God is better than simply standing with empty hands.

Look deeper than what you see

The point of Easter is to see beyond the grave, to see beyond the destruction of human life, to see beyond the observable facts. If we try to understand and rationalise everything, we could go mad. Easter gives us a window through which, besides looking at the world with our brains, we can also look with our hearts and hands.

Faith should keep us alert and in tune with the world. Faith adds something that the modern world has lost — namely a sense of belonging to a love greater than our understanding. This source of love inspires us to deal with our neighbour with more tolerance and to look at ourselves in a less egocentric way.

The religious answer to the question of “who or what are you looking for” is that we should look beyond what we see and understand. He is to be found in the victory over suffering, in the bare helping hands that remove the stones, in the protest of workers who demand changes in the financial world, in the volunteers and professionals who risk their lives working among the victims of poverty and conflict.

At Easter, we celebrate the fact that God moved Christ beyond the Cross. On this instrument of torture he cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” and “Your will be done.” On Easter Sunday, God responds to that cry by showing that he wants to live. Even though life is destroyed, his last will and final testament is to restore it.

The positive in life is much stronger than the negative

Negativity has not the last word. We celebrate that at Easter. Only God has the last word. Beyond so many dead spots in our existence, there is another way to discover that brings us back to life. That is why Christians dare to celebrate Easter without forgetting Good Friday. We can continue to believe in the power of life. We must testify to that power with so many who now need support and encouragement in these days. It is our Easter mission as Christians.

Light a candle

The Easter candle is a symbol of the Risen Lord, the source of all our courage, hope and love. However, we must not reduce the energising flame of faith to the flickering flame of a simple candle. Easter is a time to fan the flame of faith into an inferno that will burn away all fear and selfishness and inflame all hearts with love and hope. Such is the vision. Easter people will not settle for less.

Peace events or marches are organised in many places in different countries on Easter Sunday or Easter Monday. Participants manifest, for instance, against nuclear weapons and/or other contemporary challenges such as the climate, exclusion or migration. Many believers also carry a candle as a sign of life. It remains a task to keep policymakers alert to keep looking for solutions to the major challenges of our time.

At Easter Sunday, we will see the result of our Lenten campaign as an expression of our solidarity with the poor, the weakest, especially with those populations that live in oppression or occupation. We are the risen body of Christ in our world, called to love one another.

Alleluia – Christ has risen! Alleluia.

I wish you a Happy Easter.

 

Nonviolence, Peace Spirituality

The burning dove of peace

by Fr. Rob Esdaile
Pax Christi UK

A Reflection for Pentecost Sunday…

Acts 2:1-11 | 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 | John 20:19-23

In the beginning was a mighty wind, stirring the waters on the first day, bringing forth life and light. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, a gentler image of a descending dove illustrates the heavenly voice: “This is my Son, the Beloved.” But there is nothing dove-like at his crucified end, when Jesus expired, surrendering his Spirit into the Father’s hands with a cosmic cry of pain.

There’s no white bird seen at Pentecost, either. The mighty wind returns, of course, probing footings and rattling doors and windows. A noise fills the place and startles, bringing people running. But it’s visibility is now a flame descending on believers’ heads, a fire like that which Moses saw, flaring without consuming.

This testing fire is the form the Dove of Peace must take today if we would free crucified humanity from its cross and open up paths of justice, solidarity and simple grateful living. The Spirit is an awkward gift, testing the foundations, attracting attention and opposition, admired and yet despised, cutting off the option of quiet indifferent living in the face of human pain.

The fire that settles on each disciple brow and in each heart; this passion for the earth and rejection of crucifying violence; this asking of the awkward question and rejection of the easy lie; this is Pentecost and this the way of Christian hope. After forty days of flood the dove returned, bearing in its beak an olive twig, a sprig of possibility, a sign of a fertile earth where humanity might make landfall, disembark and till the broken earth once more. Our brow, our lips, our heart, bearing that sprig of God’s Shalom/Salaam, become the Dove descending; and heaven’s voice is heard once more: “Here is God’s Beloved. Listen – and live!”

Fr. Rob Esdaile is a member of our Nonviolence Working Group and Parish Priest of Our Lady of Lourdes, Thames Ditton. You can read all of Pax Christi UK’s post-Easter Sunday reflections here.

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* Photo from http://allanpeters.com/blog/2013/04/18/old-new-a-collaborative-bible-design-project/21-brian-danaher/
Nonviolence, Peace Spirituality

The fruit of peace is solidarity and justice

by Katrina Alton
Pax Christi UK

A Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Easter…

Acts 4:32-35 | 1 John 5:1-6 | John 20:19-31

How were the first followers of Jesus transformed from being a group of frightened people hiding behind locked doors, to a vibrant justice filled community that inspired others to join them? In John’s Gospel we learn that the first step in this transformation process is taken by Jesus; he takes the initiative, he comes to them, meeting them where they are. Jesus doesn’t just break through the “locked doors”, but he breaks the cycle of violence. To those who had denied and abandoned him there is no message of retribution or judgment, but instead, “Peace be with you”. With this gift of peace there also comes a task, the task to forgive others as God forgives us. This is the priority Jesus sets us; to be people of peace and reconciliation in our families, our communities and in our world.

For those first disciples a commitment to peace making, to actively following Jesus’ way of nonviolence, meant they willingly endured the stigma of being called “Christian”. By refusing to fight in the Roman army, or put their trust in war or weapons, they were marked out as followers of Jesus, the Jesus whom the Roman Empire had crucified. Yet they bore this stigma with pride, for having touched and been touched by the stigmata of the risen Christ, they were sent out in the power of the Spirit to show the world that it is through forgiveness,  reconciliation and love, not through violence, war or  retaliation, that true peace is established. The fruit of that peace, we read in Acts, is solidarity and justice.

This Easter as we embrace the gift of Christ’s peace, let us pray that the Spirit will transform us, so that we may willing bear any stigma that being followers of Jesus’ way of nonviolence may bring for the sake of justice and peace.

Katrina Alton is a Sister of St Joseph of Peace and a Pax Christi member from Nottingham. You can read all of Pax Christi UK’s post-Easter Sunday reflections here. 

Lent, Nonviolence, Peace Spirituality

Reflection for Easter Sunday, April 16 – Nonviolence reaches for the greater good

by Nancy Small
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

Acts 10:34, 37-43 | Colossians 3:1-4 | John 20:1-9

Since you’ve been resurrected with Christ, set your heart on what pertains to higher realms, where Christ is seated at God’s right hand. (Col 3:1)

emptytombWe began Holy Week in hope proclaiming hosanna. We end in hope proclaiming alleluia. Alleluia to the Risen Christ! Alleluia to hope rising and resounding with joy in our hearts!

Today’s epistle reading invites us to live as an Easter people, saying, “Since you’ve been resurrected with Christ, set your heart on what pertains to higher realms” (Col 3:1). This summons is given by disciples who committed themselves to continuing the nonviolent way of Jesus. With Christ as their stronghold, they lengthened the reach of nonviolence into the heart of society. Each time they were beaten or imprisoned, they persevered, never giving up, always reaching toward the greater good.

The way of nonviolence has a lot to do with reaching for the greater good. We reach for the greater good within ourselves and appeal to the greater good in one another. And we reach for the greater good that lies in the heart of society. We do this by calling forth and cultivating more of the stuff of heaven that we long for on earth. More justice, more peace, more love. More patience diffusing tempers and tension in conflicts. More mercy guiding public policies and washing over hearts filled with hatred. More healing in people and places harmed by violence.

“Each of us has a capacity for great good and that is what makes God say it was well worth the risk to bring us into existence,” writes Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “God … depends on us, puny, fragile, vulnerable as we may be, to accomplish God’s purposes for good, for justice, for forgiveness, for healing and wholeness.”

This is our summons. Fragile though we may be, we bring our faith. We bring our fortitude. And we bring our unwavering commitment to live as disciples of Christ who became vulnerable so that he might be victorious. Amen! Alleluia!

Nancy Small is the former National Coordinator of Pax Christi USA and an Ambassador of Peace.