“An old friend of mine used to remark, ‘If God wanted us to suffer, Jesus would have gone around making people sick’. Jesus was, of course, famous for going around relieving the sufferings of people, whether those were sufferings of the body, the hurts of injustice or exclusion, or the spiritual sufferings of those who felt unforgiven and unforgivable. His life was altogether an expression of the Creator’s love for each of his sons and daughters, and especially for the suffering and for those scorned by the human community of the time.
The message of Easter is similarly an affirmation of the value of each human life, each human person. As we make the journey from Palm Sunday to Easter Morning, we do indeed see Jesus suffer terribly. He undergoes a savage beating and a grisly death, while he also suffers from the fickleness of public opinion, from the injustices of the system that judged him, and from his betrayal and desertion by friends and followers.
The heart of the Easter event, however, is not that Christ suffered and died, but that God then raised him from death. Yes, he is humanly impressive in his suffering, as a man of integrity who will not bow down before injustice or be deflected from his cause by the threat of violence. But other men and women have shown such integrity and courage, from the earliest recorded times until now. What is special to the Easter event is that it shows us where God stands in the human story. First, we see that God, in Jesus, is against injustice, prejudice and bigotry, and for compassion and justice, for the poor, the excluded and the suffering. Secondly, we see that God sets his seal on Jesus’ work and teaching by raising him from the dead. Despite the apparent victory of injustice and cruelty on Good Friday, it turns out that the fate of Jesus, and therefore of everyone and of the creation as a whole, is in God’s hands. And on Easter Sunday God showed his hand.
Christians don’t, or shouldn’t, take this to mean that we should simply put up with what the world dishes out because it will all be set right some time after death. Rather, we gain courage from Jesus’ rising to go ahead and seek to change the world, knowing that, in trying to live as he did, we are on the right side of history. And so we try to respect, and indeed love, all others in our world as Jesus did and taught. Whether those others are children in the womb, people of different races or religions or cultures, old people in their last days, asylum seekers, criminals in gaols, those who are indifferent or hostile to us, people with physical or mental disabilities, or any other type or condition of person, we will want to treat them with the dignity that is properly theirs as human beings. And we will work to see them treated with full human dignity by the nations, governments, workplaces and groups to which we belong. These are things that Jesus lived and died for. And God did not allow death to have the last word on him. He is risen! Happy Easter.”
Bishop Bill Wright
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.