A farmer asked his neighbor if he could borrow some rope. The neighbor said, “I’d like to but I’m using it to tie up some milk.” The farmer said, “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard! Who uses rope to tie up milk?” The neighbor said, “Friend, when you don’t want to do something, one excuse is as good as any other.”
A project or report needs to be done, but it is delayed. A room needs to be cleaned. Someone is asked to help with a parish committee, but suddenly discovers plans were made for that day. There are many reasons or excuses not to do something when someone simply does not want to do it!
Easter is the greatest day in the Church year because of Christ’s resurrection. The Gloria and Alleluia return to the Mass. A stark church is filled with flowers of every kind. The Easter candle stands near the ambo as a reminder of Christ’s victory. There are Easter egg hunts and Easter baskets filled with candy. People wear new clothes. Many families either go out to dinner or have a feast at home. Yet for all that, Easter is a very dangerous feast simply because Christ has taken away all the reasons and excuses of not living the faith by living His gospel.
The hopes of His followers were crushed on Good Friday. While He lived, Christ began to usher in a new world: the dead were raised, the sick healed, sinners forgiven, and a new way of life was preached and lived; a way of life not based on power or wealth, but in living the will of His Father that showed the Kingdom. There was an excitement and a reason to live that people had not experienced in a long time. Then His death on a cross brought all of it to an end. People went into hiding or ran away. The power of Pilate and the religious leaders gave every reason to remain quiet about what they witnessed. That was the way it always was and the way it would always be, with an elite in control crushing any change that was a threat.
But God had other plans that did not end in death and a tomb. He spoke Easter and His Son rose in glory, more alive than ever before. The power of Pilate defeated. The power of the Evil One and death were defeated. All the forces arrayed against Christ were defeated! The women who went to the tomb early in the morning met the Christ, and mourning came to an end. The apostles hiding in the upper room in fear of the religious leaders and weighed down by their betrayal were given peace and forgiveness by the Risen Christ. Along with that joy was also a dangerous gift. All the excuses for not being alive for Christ were defeated with His rising from the dead. The early community publicly lived their faith in Jesus. It formed their relationships with each other, concern for those in need and making the Lord known. They stood before religious and civil authorities refusing to be intimidated into silenced. Instead, they made Christ known in their words and lives. The excuses and reasons to live in tombs had been totally overcome by Christ rising from the dead.
That is the challenge of Easter. It can remain a beautiful one-day celebration, or it can become a way of life. It can be limited to new clothes and good food, or a way of life that proclaims that since Christ is the Risen savior, a person refuses to keep quiet or water down the faith to be acceptable to others, but live it with boldness through His Spirit.
Eugene O’Neil wrote a play entitled, “Lazarus Laughed.” It takes place a few days after Christ restored Lazarus to life. During a feast, the father of Lazarus proposes a toast. “To my son, Lazarus, whom a blessed miracle has brought back from death!” Lazarus softly laughs and says, “No! There is no death!” One of the guests asks him, “What is beyond there, Lazarus?” He answers, with a voice of loving exaltation, “There is only life! I heard the heart of Jesus laughing in my heart.” Then, “in compelling exultation” he says: “Laugh! Laugh with me! Death is dead! Fear is no more! There is only life! There is only laughter!”
Christ is risen! He has truly risen!