Our Easter celebration is the culmination of a forty-day journey through Lent, the celebration of which was intensified in the final week we just concluded, in the powerful ceremonies of Holy Week. The readings in the Easter Vigil mapped out the course of history throughout the Old Testament, starting at the very beginning of the Bible, and, quite literally, the beginning of creation. They set the whole pattern for our redemption. They describe God’s creative activity. The first verses of the Bible paint a scene of chaos; and what does God do? He starts by separating out the elements of creation (light and darkness, the sky and the earth, water and land), and then gradually builds up the entire work of creation, culminating in the creation of man and woman. In order words, God’s creative activity consists in creating order out of chaos. Order is a sure sign of God’s grace at work; where there is order, God’s grace in some way or another is operative. This, then, gives us insight into what it means that God created the man and the woman in His image: we reflect God’s likeness insofar as we can do the same. The problem, though, is that too often we do the opposite! That is, we alter the good order that God put into the universe, and always to our demise. This is what happens in the story about the fall of Adam and Eve. The moral to the story, though, is that this is something that we all do. So instead of mirroring God and creating order out of chaos, we create chaos out of order! This is true in every age.
Though this chaos which we have created for ourselves does not nullify God’s image in us, it does weaken it; it tarnishes it. We might say that God’s image is defaced in us, but it is still there. Yes, we can put order into place where there is chaos – and notice how when you do so, everything is so much more pleasing and harmonious. This, again, is a sign of God’s grace at work. But this creative power of ours is confined to this world of time. When it comes to restoring order at the cosmic, eternal level, we aren’t able to do that – it’s beyond us. Ultimately, we can’t get ourselves out of this mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. That’s the bad news. But there’s Good News: God has done this for us! This is what Christ’s Resurrection means: God took on a human body so that He could do this at one and the same time for us and by us. The Resurrection is a complete new beginning for all of humanity, as the accounts of Our Lord make clear. God did this within our world, in our own time and history.
Jewish belief is that the resurrection of the dead will happen at the end of all history, when all will be assembled in Jerusalem to arise. But with his Son, Jesus Christ, God made this happen within the midst of our own history. This means that our salvation is already accomplished. The glory of Christ rising from the dead is the culmination of all of salvation history. This, though, applies in a general way, for the human race as a whole, but the personal salvation history of each one of us is still being worked out.
Easter is a significant moment in this personal salvation history for our brothers and sisters who just received the sacraments of initiation into the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass. This is the very meaning of the Christian life: the sacrament of Baptism is not just a wonderful moment in our faith life confined to history, but rather a mystery to be lived out with our entire life, so that we may attain the salvation which Christ has already won for us.
As we glory in the joy of this Easter season, let’s take it as a motivation to keep our minds and hearts open to the working of God’s grace in our lives, that He may restore for each of us the order proper to His plan, so that through us the light of Christ’s Resurrection might illuminate the whole world, making it a more perfect image of His Kingdom of light and love, of justice, truth, and peace. May the joy of this feast continue for a long time in you. Have a blessed Easter!