Easter is a time to celebrate new life. The long hard winter is mainly passed. There is promise to be seen in nature. And most of all the Lord has risen from the dead! The graces and power of the Resurrection is offered to all of us, thereby stimulating a great new beginning. What looked like disaster and the end of the story on Good Friday has, by Easter Sunday, turned into the biggest reversal in human history. The Father has had the last word, and it is one of life and goodness and generous grace to all.
One would think that everyone would be happy with this now-happy story of triumphant Love. But that is not the case.
In Flannery O’Conner’s famous short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, the Misfit, who is a murderer just escaped from prison, is on a killing spree down South. He captures a family, including a very religious grandmother. Before he begins to kill every member of the family, the grandmother tries to reach out with Christian love and speak to him about Jesus. He reacts violently to this ‘church talk’ and tells her he prefers a religion where the dead stay dead. She reaches out her hand to touch him and he shoots her dead. The Misfit was a man who was anti-life and reacted very negatively to the possibility that death does not end all things. For him, death was a convenient solution, something that is a great simplifier.
But what if death is not the end?
Often atheists cite Karl Marx’s remark that religion is the opium of the people. But is it not convenient for an unbeliever to believe that no one is held accountable for their behavior? In this way of imagining, the future is nothing; when you die, you die. No judgement. No reward. No punishment. Is this not a vision of bliss for anyone that wants to get away? Is not atheism, then, the true opium for the guilty, the cruel, the treacherous?
The Misfit saw that to believe in the Resurrection means accountability. It means that everything we do or not do will be judged. The Misfit did not want his victims to come back to life, nor did he want to stand before a judge with no way of escape. The Resurrection means that there is another chapter, the longer one. This is an unsettling thought to anyone who wants to get away scot-free. It is a terrible thought to the Misfit who was counting on his nihilist vision.
We have now entered the season of Easter and it is a time when the Resurrection and eternal life comes to the fore. While talking about the suffering and death of Christ is painful, it is also familiar. We all know what suffering entails.
But we know nothing about the life to come or even what the Resurrection of Christ looked like. This is uncharted territory. Yet it is the single greatest turnaround in history, from despair to renewed hope.
Like the story of the Misfit, it is not welcomed by everyone. It is mysterious and does not fit neatly with our experience of life. It requires one to enter the complete process of faith. There are no measurements. There are no proofs. We have just the stories of the Resurrection of Jesus and the effects that they still have on the world. They have not only changed the world, but they are still changing the world.
For us who are believers in Christ and in His Resurrection, they are facts of life that we can depend on. We have experienced the graces of the Resurrection in the alcoholic who has turned their life around by trusting in the Higher Power. We have seen these graces in the care and love of down syndrome children by dedicated parents and professionals. We can touch the Resurrection when someone who has lived their whole life believing in nothing, suddenly and inexplicably comes to believe in God and sees clearly that everything does cohere and that the only explanation for the goodness of life is a God who is Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.
Even as we face tough times as a Church, we do not despair because we see that the Church will rise again even more glorious for all her wounds.
Christ is Risen, He is Risen indeed!