Resurrection and Hope
Easter Weekend, 2022. It’s impossible to contemplate the mystery of the Resurrection in this era without wondering — maybe even challenging — what that means in a world beset by a terrible war with evidence of atrocities perpetrated by Russia in Ukraine, the ongoing suffering of the Covid-19 pandemic that teases us but will not release its grip, the very real presence of racial hatred and authoritarian political trends in our own fragile democracy. Christians revere the story of the Resurrection as the evidence of Christ’s divinity, his triumph over the suffering and death on the cross that we observe on Good Friday. Yet, in this fraught moment in human history, the idea of being triumphant seems ill-conceived, arrogant, and a mis-reading of the Gospels. Most often in these times of struggle, we feel like the disciples who discovered the empty tomb, wondering what has happened, uncertain and afraid.
In an essay in the National Catholic Reporter, writer Chris Herlinger suggests that we Christians should be less about triumphalism and more about hope. We must admit the terror, oppression and genuine suffering that people who claim to be Christians have inflicted across the centuries on other human beings. Triumphalism obscures, denies these sins, while the humility of hope confesses complicity in evil for the sake of power over others.
The other day, President Biden upset some people by calling the destruction of human life in Ukraine “genocide.” Such a strong word in polite society! But perhaps the United States should have spoken out with equally strong words — and actions to support the words — in 1942, 43, 44 when the Holocaust was unfolding in Germany. As is true today with the Russian soldiers who are carrying out the wanton torture and murder of civilians in Ukraine, so it was true with the German soldiers and officers who stoked the fires of the crematoria at Auschwitz and Birkenau — good Christians all, “just following orders.”
We may feel relieved that the reality of such evils are far away, across an ocean and a continent, happening among people we may only see on a screen before we move on to Tik-Tok videos of cats and food. To dismiss the obvious threats against human life and freedom that are coursing through the roots of our own country is obtuse, a dangerous repression of knowledge about conditions that are truly a call to action for justice. Sadly, many so-called Christians are at the center of political misinformation and efforts to take over governing bodies to roll back decades of progress on civil rights and human rights. This is not about noble and well-reasoned political argumentation over public policy; the rolling-back of civil and human rights in the United States is fueled by racial and ethnic hostility and outright hatred against Black and Brown persons in particular.
True Christians must not only have nothing to do with the racism and oppression of refugees and immigrants that has taken hold in too many places in our nation — we must also be advocates and activists for the protection of those persons who are suffering grave harm amid the myriad injustices of contemporary culture. We are called to be people of Hope, of Charity — but those virtues depend on the fulfillment of social justice principles, which rest on the protection of human life and dignity. As the old saying goes, if we want peace, we must work for justice.
On this Easter Weekend, we need Christians everywhere to reaffirm our fundamental faith commitments as people of Hope, of Charity, working for peace through justice. The real triumph of the Resurrection will come not in domination of others, but in the ways in which we make it possible for other people to enjoy lives of freedom, fulfillment and peace.
Let us all pray for a swift and sure end to the war in Ukraine, and a restoration of peace in Europe.