Easter is a time when we celebrate life

As the most important event in the Christian calendar looms, Fr Ger Dunne, a Dominican friar and Roman Catholic chaplain at UCC, explains what Easter teaches us
Easter is a time when we celebrate life

Fr Ger Dunne (back) distributiing ashes in the Honan Chapel, UCC, on Ash Wednesday, 2018, with former Bishop of Cork and Ross John Buckley

EASTER will mean different things to different people.

For some, it will be a welcome break and the herald of spring and brighter evenings.

Others will relish the thought of having time with family and community - and our children will have thoughts of Easter eggs!

For many, it will be a spiritual celebration too - when the world pauses to remember the single most significant event for the members of the Christian community - the new life offered to all because of the belief and faith that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.

There are so many accounts of the resurrection of Jesus that it is impossible to deny the fact that Jesus suffered, was put to death, and that he rose from the dead after three days.

In fact, this is the core of belief for all who profess the Christian faith. It is, in the minds of many, the moment in which the world changed forever. Never before was the possibility of the gift of new life given to believers. This new life offered by Jesus could be ours too!

The significance of Easter and the events that unfolded are a reminder to us all that some good, some blessing always comes from anguish or distress - the possibility of a new beginning.

You might be able to see this in your own experience. It may be unlikely that it happened all at once.

When our world comes to an end, it may indeed take a long time to see any sign of a blessing or new life. But as Christian believers, Jesus assures us that tragedy, loss and death are never the end of the story.

Jesus died on the cross but he rose on Easter morning; the world will end one day, but we have the assurance that Christ (the Son of Man) will come again.

Stay Awake

During his earthly life, Jesus tells us to do two things so that we will be able to cope when something happens that is like the end of the world.

First, he says. ‘Stay awake!’ Stay awake to the fact that we are not completely in control of what happens to us.

While we are dependent on many people and situations - in truth, we are completely dependent on God.

We can depend on God to bring us through whatever happens.

While it may seem difficult, we can safely leave ourselves and the people and problems we are concerned about in God’s good hands.

In my own experience, this growth in trust comes slowly, and I can sympathise with the man in the Gospel who told Jesus, ‘I believe; help my unbelief.’

Fr Ger Dunne.
Fr Ger Dunne.

Over the years, I have had the privilege to work with people suffering from various addictions and it is always with a deep sense of amazement that recovering addicts who follow the twelve-step programme are keenly aware of these truths: ‘We are powerless over our addiction, we put our lives and wills in his hands; God has the power to free us; and we will find freedom from our addiction one day at a time.’

When that happens, new life begins.

Stand Ready

The second thing that Jesus tells us to do is to ‘stand ready’. Then, when things collapse around us, we are not taken off guard. We are ready to do whatever we can do and need to do. We are ready to endure what we have to endure because we believe and trust that the situation is not outside of God’s control.

You may remember 16-year old Donal Walsh from Tralee, who died some years ago from cancer. He won the heart of the nation in the final few months of his life.

Fully aware that he was terminally ill, he desperately wanted to live. It shocked and grieved him that some young people take their own lives.

Donal wrote to a local paper, appeared on a talk-show on television and made a video, appealing to young people who felt suicidal to look for help, to talk to someone they trusted. He assured them that there is always a door, and that it will open.

He stood ready - generous in his concern for other young people and sustained by his own faith and the faith of his parents.

Donal wanted people to live life - and live to the full.

Live Life!

Working in the context of a university setting where I am privileged to be one of the chaplaincy team at UCC, I encounter young people daily.

They are extraordinary in their vitality, their goodness, their care and concern for others, and they are altruistic to a fault.

They have their difficulties too - as every generation does. But they want to live life and be the best that they can be.

The Easter message of new life is one that they can connect with.

Many of them will understand that the call to live life to the full has deep Christian roots.

I hope that they will be able to encounter Christ and his life giving message in a new way this Easter.

I hope you do as well.

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