Easter, He is Risen!

Easter, He is risen, Ohope NZ

A Feast of Hope

In a homily offered on Easter Sunday 2019, Father Richard Rohr shared the good news of the resurrection: 

The Brazilian writer and journalist Fernando Sabino (1923–2004) wrote, “In the end, everything will be [all right]. If it’s not [all right], it’s not the end.” [1] That’s what today is all about, “Everything will be okay in the end.”

The message of Easter is not primarily a message about Jesus’ body, although we’ve been trained to limit it to this one-time “miracle.” We’ve been educated to expect a lone, risen Jesus saying, “I rose from the dead; look at me!” I’m afraid that’s why many people, even Christians, don’t really seem to get too excited about Easter. If the message doesn’t somehow include us, humans don’t tend to be that interested in theology. Let me share what I think the real message is: Every message about Jesus is a message about all of us, about humanity. Sadly, the Western church that most of us were raised in emphasized the individual resurrection of Jesus. It was a miracle that we could neither prove nor experience, but that we just dared to boldly believe.

But there’s a great secret, at least for Western Christians, hidden in the other half of the universal church. In the Eastern Orthodox Church—in places like Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Egypt—Easter is not usually painted with a solitary Jesus rising from the dead. He’s always surrounded by crowds of people—both haloed and unhaloed. In fact, in traditional icons, he’s pulling people out of Hades. Hades is not the same as hell, although we put the two words together, and so we grew up reciting in the creed that “Jesus descended into hell.”

Instead, Hades is simply the place of the dead. There’s no punishment or judgment involved. It’s just where a soul waits for God. But we neglected that interpretation. So the Eastern Church was probably much closer to the truth that the resurrection is a message about humanity. It’s a message about history. It’s a corporate message, and it includes you and me and everyone else. If that isn’t true, it’s no wonder that we basically lost interest.

Today is the feast of hope, direction, purpose, meaning, and community. We’re all in this together. The cynicism and negativity that our country and many other countries have descended into show a clear example of what happens when people do not have hope. If it’s all hopeless, we individually lose hope too. Easter is an announcement of a common hope. When we sing in the Easter hymn that Christ destroyed death, that means the death of all of us. It’s not just about Jesus; it’s to humanity that God promises, “Life is not ended, it merely changes,” as we say in the funeral liturgy. That’s what happened in Jesus, and that’s what will happen in us. In the end, everything will be all right. History is set on an inherently positive and hopeful tangent.