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Beauty, Wonder And Gift: Happy Easter

Author: Fr. Simon Penhalagan

Picture: Piqsels

Beauty, Wonder And Gift: Happy Easter

Fr. Simon Penhalagan encourages us to see our own lives in the Easter story- and let ourselves be loved by God.

In several courses and conversations that I’ve been involved in recently, I’ve been challenged to think in a different way.

We often think about what we are doing, but the challenge came to me to think about why we are doing those things.  And that question applies to our faith as well. To a certain degree we know what we do: we go to Mass; we give up things for Lent; we follow the Ten Commandments.  Yet often, we don’t take the time to reflect on why we do them, and Holy Week is a stark reminder of just that.

When we think of the key characters of Holy Week and beyond, we can see that they clearly knew why they were there.  Our Lady reveals in the Magnificat - the statement of faith that she proclaimed at the Visitation - that she was motivated by her profound knowledge of the love that God had for her and for all his people, a love that was expressed in his desire for true justice for us, and the love that strengthened her to travel with Jesus even to devastating pain of the Cross, where “a sword pierced her own soul, too”.

Finding A Profound Reason To Follow Jesus

St Peter and the other apostles knew why they followed Jesus.  Prior to Holy Week, they believed that the prophecies of old would be fulfilled, that a Messiah would be sent who would free them from slavery, just as Moses had free their people over a thousand years before.  And they followed Jesus, their Messiah, in that hope. 

However, Jesus’ Resurrection, Ascension and his sending of the Holy Spirit took their understanding a million steps deeper.  They now knew a more profound reason to follow him, a reason which would enable them to lay down their own lives for their faith in Jesus. This reason was that the love that he had showed them-and everyone he encountered in his earthly lifetime-was now a reality welling up within them for all people as well. 

They were empowered to love as he loved.  They now saw that the Messiah had come to free them from slavery to sin and the oppression of the devil, giving them the freedom to love God and all people as God himself loves. 

Believing Because Of Love And Hope

St Paul, the oppressor who encountered the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus, saw what he believed transformed in a moment as he encountered who Jesus really is, who he is as a living person.

That transformation took him from believing because of fear – fear of breaking the rules, fear of death – to believing because of love and hope.  He saw that God was no longer just the harsh judge of the Old Testament, but rather the loving parent, the perfect Father, of Jesus’ teaching, who wants us to live by his guidelines because they are the healthiest, fullest way to be truly human, to truly love God, others and ourselves more and more each day.

This is the beauty and wonder of the cross and resurrection of Jesus. God created us to share love-and because we proved unable to live the love that he had intended, he died in the greatest act of love to take our sins upon himself and defeat death-the power of satan in our lives.

Jesus' Death And Resurrection Are His Gift

His death and Resurrection are his gift to us- that we might have hope in the truth that death does not have the final word, but that living in his love, and sharing that love with others, opens the doorway to eternal life and love. 

We might still be fearful of the process of dying, but not of our ultimate destination.  Why?  Because we can be more and more confident of the depth of God’s love for us, revealed in Jesus’ death and Resurrection, and made present in our own lives though the permanent gift of his Holy Spirit of love living within each one of us. 

Why do I have faith?  Because God loves me more than I can begin to imagine and wants only the best for me.  What do I have to do?  Get more and more in touch with the Holy Spirit who is constantly at work within me, guiding me as to how to love more fully and healthily, and cooperate with him.  The Sacraments, and prayer, and Bible reading, and devotions and all the things that we do are the essential tools that God gives us to enable that to happen, but we must choose to look to their source to benefit most fully from them.

Allow God To Put His Arms Around You   

We must choose to cooperate with the risen Jesus’ Holy Spirit of love, desiring to grow in love for God and each other.  As St Peter writes, this love “is the reason for our hope”, and, as Jesus was constantly highlighting, this is the heart of what we believe and why we believe it. As he teaches us clearly in the story of the Prodigal Son:

even when we are at our worst

our Father sees us

and is filled with compassion;

he runs

and puts his arms around us

and kisses us.

The greatest Easter gift you can give God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is to allow them to put their arms around you and kiss you.  Let’s give that gift of love to them, more and more throughout our lives, as they constantly give the gift of their love to us.

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