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What's this Easter thing all about? I've been asking myself that question for awhile, but particularly as I complete a Bible study on the Gospel of Luke. I guess I'm frustrated at how easily everyone else seems to accept how God sacrifices Jesus for us. No discussion though I am full of questions, but not comfortable enough to voice them. In some ways, it makes absolutely no sense to me. If God is all-powerful and loving then why was this pre-ordained?
The only way I can piece it together is that God gave up what he loved most, his child, to show us how much he does, indeed, love us. And, yes, it wasn't God who killed Jesus, but we humans. Honestly, I'm not even sure how much it matters to me whether this is fact or metaphor. I still burn to understand its personal meaning and relevance.
After centering prayer with the accompanying Thomas Keating passage*, I may be making some progress.
"The heart of the Easter Mystery is our personal discovery of intimacy with God."Here's something that moves me deeply and closer to an answer. Perhaps because God is Divine and we are human, we needed a bonding agent, Jesus, who was human and Divine, to seal that connection. It also triggers a memory and I pull out a handmade book I once gave to Autumn:
For Autumn, Easter 2004
Just like autumn, spring is a season with its own identity and beauty.
Instead of falling leaves of every imaginable color, brisk chills in the air and a steamy cup of hot chocolate, spring is flowers pushing their way through the dirt, the smell of gentle rains awakening the earth and the returning sweet sounds of birds.
It's also the story of Jesus, the man, who, much like the fall, dies away. But, also like the spring, is reborn.
Easter is a significant part of spring for Christians, people who believe Jesus is the best example of how to live and love.
The simple version of Jesus' life is that God (God isn't human, but we'll call God a "she" in this story) wanted to show the world how much she loved every creature and thing that was a part of it. She chose to send down a special baby to Mary and Joseph because it is hard for us to know just how much God loves us. She thought her son, in a human form, could best let us know and share that love.
Jesus was that baby, who grew to be a young man and taught people about God's love – always there – and that we should love ourselves and each other in the same way. Jesus was an unusual teacher; he didn't just talk about love, he showed it. By healing the sick, loving the poor and spending time with those most people would not. He didn't judge them, just loved them. And as he loved them, they became better people, more able to love themselves and others.
Jesus taught people the golden rule: treat others as you would want them to treat you. It was also one of God's 10 Commandments [she gave them to Moses long before Jesus was born; they were rules for living peacefully]: Love your neighbor as yourself.
That was not an easy rule for people to understand in Jesus' time [speaking of time, did you know that the Romans began the calendar we have by counting time the year after Jesus died? People felt his life and teaching were that important] and many people resented Jesus for showing them a different, more-loving way to live. But, that's exactly why God sent Jesus, to show us how to live with love and peace. People that didn't understand that decided the world would be better without Jesus. So they arrested Jesus, gave him a trial and decided he would die.
God, because God is God and knows everything, was aware this would happen and sent baby Jesus to earth anyway. God made Jesus strong and loving so Jesus would accept his death, knowing that he was only dying from his human body and that his life and lessons would live on in the hearts of many.
Jesus told those who loved him not to be sad because, although it would be not be easy for him to suffer the pain of his death [not all death is painful, bus Jesus' was] or those he loved to watch, he would return in three days and live forever in another form.
When loved ones went to the place where Jesus' body was buried, it was empty and an angel told them Jesus had been resurrected. Resurrected means to come back to life.
That's a big word with a big meaning. While you can't see Jesus like your mother or father, you can still know his love and the love of God in many different ways. How do you feel when you hold a baby kitten? Or when you have special time with Mimi? How about when something bad happens and you know it will be all right?
Do you remember that awful night when you were burned by hot coffee? Do you remember how brave you were and how, all the way to the hospital in the ambulance, we held hands and said we loved each other? That happened because we share the love of Jesus and God and that love was with us then, just as it always is – even when we don't know or feel it.
There are ways to feel it. One of those is by praying or talking to God or Jesus. I find I talk best to them when I am very quiet and thinking about nothing else but listening for God. I pretend to unpeel my heart, like an onion, and hand it to God in the palms of my hands. Whenever I do, I feel my body tingle all over and I know God is listening, even touching me. Sometimes I start rocking back and forth, back and forth without thinking about it. That's when God is giving me a big hug. A hug so tight and deep I feel it in every bone, muscle and cell of my body. I also feel like hugging someone else in the same way.
I used to think there was only one way to pray and that was to say it out loud in front of people. I now know that is one way to pray, but not the only way. I pray when I am making art, writing in my journal [I am praying now as I write this story because God is speaking to me by giving me the words], doing yoga ... anytime I am listening or talking to God.
Resurrection means being born again from a painful experience and being a better person because of it. It happens to us over and over. Kind of like how you healed after being burned and how you saw other children with much worse burns at Shriners', so now you know the fear and hurt they felt and you want to comfort them.
Spring is also a time of rebirth. When the daffodils and tulips break through the earth and unfold their color. When the robins and Canada geese arrive, singing that spring is here. When the leaves bud, then gradually bloom on the trees, shading us from the warming sun. When the yard smells of honeysuckle and the butterflies come back to the garden. When the seeds we plant poke up and the green sprouts push off that seed.
It's a good reminder to think about love again; how Jesus loves and how we should love others....
Hummmmm ... maybe I wasn't so far off in that children's story for Autumn eight years ago.
• What does Easter mean to me?
• How has that interpretation evolved as I have grown?
• What has opened me to Easter's meaning?
• Who's is Jesus to me?
• What lessons of Jesus speak most deeply to me?
*The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living by Father Thomas Keating