“Jesus, the Crucified One, is risen! He stands in the midst of those who mourned him, locked behind closed doors and full of fear and anguish. He comes to them and says: ‘Peace be with you!’ (Jn 20:19). He shows the wounds in his hands and feet, and the wound in his side” (Urbi et Orbi 2022, Pope Francis). As we enter the Easter Season, we cannot forget the lessons that would have emerged during Lent, beyond the ritual sacrifice and practice. A season of true introspection and austerity, we may have been confronted with depths of mindset and stubbornness, the closed doors that keep us in quiet tumult and conflict.
The 50 days of Easter bring reassurance that Jesus’ peace is always present. He comes into the closed spaces of hearts and minds locked in fear and anguish, and offers an alternative in Him. Catholics are also called an Easter people, a resurrection people, which proclaims the joyous news that sin and fear are not the final messages for us. What awaits always is Jesus’ love and reminder that He is eternally present. Transcending the individual, as Easter people, Acts gives the account of the early shaping of the Christian community among Jesus’ followers. In the article, ‘We are an Easter people’, writer Peg Erkedt says, “From the record of those early days, a modus operandi begins to emerge. Within the early community, ‘there was no needy person among them’ (Acts 4:34).
Those who had more property and wealth liquidated their assets and gave the money to the apostles to distribute to those in need. This may be startling information to our 21st-century selves, but nonetheless true.” Almsgiving is one of the pillars of Lenten practice but note that the early followers of Christ sought to do more than simply provide sustenance, “For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” Acts of utter selflessness: none must suffer.
Peace was brought into the lives of those who did not have. In his message to the city and the world, while the Pope speaks largely of the war in Ukraine and the bloodshed in various war-torn countries, he echoes a call resonant with the approach of the early Christians: “Today, more than ever, we need him, at the end of a Lent that has seemed endless. We emerged from two years of pandemic, which took a heavy toll. It was time to come out of the tunnel together, hand in hand, pooling our strengths and resources… Instead, we are showing that we do not yet have within us the spirit of Jesus but the spirit of Cain, who saw Abel not as a brother, but as a rival, and thought about how to eliminate him. We need the crucified and risen Lord so that we can believe in the victory of love, and hope for reconciliation.” As Catholics, members of a universal Church, as Easter people, let us look to the fervour and love of the early Christians, for God and for each other.
The times now are ripe for change, a shift in paradigm, a shift in thinking. We cannot be followers of Christ and disconnected from the suffering of those in our community and country. We, too, are bringers of peace and solace and active assistance. “Faced with the continuing signs of war, as well as the many painful setbacks to life, Jesus Christ, the victor over sin, fear and death, exhorts us not to surrender to evil and violence. Brothers and sisters, may we be won over by the peace of Christ! Peace is possible; peace is a duty; peace is everyone’s primary responsibility!” (Urbi et Orbi 2022).