My Brothers and Sisters,
“Christ the Lord is Risen! Alleluia!” That joyous and ancient Easter cry of the Church, echoing down through the centuries, signifies the victory of the Lord Jesus over the darkness of sin and death. Death has no power over the Crucified One – and through him, sin and death have no power over us who believe. This is the mystery of new life, the mystery of God’s unfathomable love for us that we celebrate at Easter. How could God possibly care so much for us, that God’s own Son takes on human flesh – one like us in all things but sin – and then that Son, Jesus Christ, freely sacrifices himself for us on the cross, dying for our sins to save us, and then is raised to new life three days later by the Father? How could this possibly happen?
One could equally ask the question “how can this possibly not happen?” We are told (more than once) in scripture that “God is love” (e.g., see 1 John 4:8). If the very essence of God is love, than anything contrary to that would contradict who God is… and so, God cannot help but love – fully and unconditionally – because to do otherwise would be untrue to God’s nature. And we all know that God is Truth itself. Thus, the fact that God “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16) should not be a big shock to us, as this is behavior consistent with a God who loves unreservedly and without limit… since that’s exactly “what God does.”
But even though these scriptures about our loving God are well-known, they present an incredibly difficult concept for us to get our minds around. “How can God love me – after all the sinful things I’ve done?” we might ask. “No, this idea of an unconditionally loving God is too good to be true.” But it is true!
In a certain sense, God’s unconditional love for you and me is almost more difficult to accept than the Resurrection of Christ from death! Jesus being raised from the tomb is but one sign – indeed, the ultimate sign – of God’s compassionate, merciful drive to love us.
Throughout his four years of ministry as our Holy Father, Pope Francis has – over and over again – stressed the theme of God’s loving mercy and readiness to forgive, telling us that “The Lord never tires of forgiving us, never! We are the ones who get tired of asking forgiveness. Let us ask for the grace to never tire of asking forgiveness, because He never tires of forgiving us.” The Holy Father, after making the above remark on God’s ever-present willingness to forgive, then speculated: “Have you thought about the patience that God has with each of us? God's face is that of a merciful father who is always patient…” Seems that God’s “patience” may be directed to those of us who might doubt God’s unconditional love or untiring forgiveness... and yet, as we celebrate Easter, God is saying to us “Believe me – trust in me and my love for you. The sign of my unconditional love for you is the death and resurrection of my Son Jesus – which opens for you the path to new life!”
What an incredible gift; the gracious gift of God’s own boundless love and forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! May we truly accept this gift, be grateful for it (and all of the gifts that God gives us)… and then be signs of God’s love in the world through our own goodness and tenderness as disciples of the Risen One.
Easter peace and joy,
Rev. Charles G. Kieffer