JONES: We are an Easter people compelled to forgive

April 23, 2019

Happy Easter! Alleluia!

Even though the retailers have marked down the price of all remaining Easter products, we Catholics have just begun our Easter celebration.

According to the liturgical calendar, the Catholic Church celebrates Easter up until the Feast of Pentecost. But we are an Easter people and as such we are called to celebrate all year long. What does it mean to be an Easter people?

Easter people are hopeful. We live in the hope that just as Jesus rose from the dead, we also will have eternal life. We have Jesus’ promise that as long as we believe in Him, we will share in His resurrection. Because of this hope, we worship Him with praise and thanksgiving. This praise and thanksgiving should not only be evident at our celebration of Mass but it should also permeate our way of life. It should be reflected in our actions, the way we treat others, in what we say and what we do.

“Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words” (attributed to St. Francis). As an Easter people, we are called to share the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection. We share this Good News not only by our words but also by our actions. We are familiar with catechists who echo the faith in their classroom and by the homilists at Mass. But there are other ways in which to spread our faith. By social outreach like feeding the poor, building houses, digging wells, visiting the sick and dying. These are just a few examples of how we echo our faith. Whenever we are examples of Christ, we share His message.

Easter people’s response to Jesus’ hopeful message is based out of love; the love we receive from the source of love, God. Jesus instructed us to love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself. This is the foundation of all the commandments and a model of Christian living. “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). You will know Easter people by their love.

As Easter people, our response to Christ’s gift of forgiveness should compel us to be forgiving and nonjudgmental. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows us examples of His forgiveness.

Stories like the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery, among many others give us examples of forgiveness. But nothing shows us the full extent of our Father’s radical forgiveness more than Jesus’ death on the cross. By His death He set us free from all our sins. Easter people forgive remembering what Jesus told Peter in Matthew 18:22; to forgive seven times 77.

Does all of this mean we won’t feel pain or grief? Does it mean we won’t experience hard times? Of course not, but we have hope and we have each other. In a world with so many divisions pitting one group of people against another, it is comforting to know that we are united as an Easter people. “The community of believers were of one heart and mind...” (Acts 4:32).

We are hopeful together. We celebrate together. We proclaim the Good News together. We love and forgive together. As an Easter people, we believe that the cross transforms suffering. We believe in the resurrection even in our darkest days. We believe that what happened all those years ago secures the promise of eternal life. As St. Augustine so eloquently said, “We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song!”

Deborah Jones in an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.