One of the words which we associate most strongly with Easter is “hope”. It is a word that has become a bit debased in the way we use it nowadays. “I hope so” very often means “I would like to think this or that might happen, but I doubt if it will”. Nothing could be further from the victorious and positive nature of our Easter hope.
Easter falls at a season of the year that is full of hopefulness. Longer evenings, Spring flowers, birdsong, and the sap rising in the trees. The whole creation (at least in the Northern hemisphere) is bursting with hope and the promise of new life. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead brings that hope to a new level of reality. Far from the resurrection being simply a metaphor that religious people use for natural renewal, as some believe, it is the yearly renewal of the Earth in Spring which is an anticipation of the resurrection; a sign pointing to something greater than itself. A shadow in search of a substance. Transience moving towards permanence.
That is how the creator God has imprinted something of Himself into the fabric of the world. He has made it full of intimations of eternity, for instance in beauty and in music which are where many of us find the strongest suggestions of intense joy and infinity. These created things won’t fulfil our yearning for eternal fellowship with God, but they will arouse it, and prepare us to find it unexpectedly, in the servant life and death of Jesus Christ.
Even today there are other signs all around us, not this time in nature or in music, but in the human lives which our eyes have been opened to value, often for the first time.
It has been a tough year since last Easter, and many people, Christians and others, have found ways of making the best of a bad job by helping one another in ways that we haven’t been used to doing before. We’ve also found ways to show our appreciation and admiration for people who we don’t usually think about. They aren’t sports people, or billionaires or even politicians. They are nurses and delivery drivers and people toiling in cavernous warehouses and food factories for very low wages. People who serve the fundamental needs of God’s world. And, in its own way their hidden service is a shadow of the resurrection life; the life of heaven, God’s place. Our sure and certain hope.
- Archbishop Eamon Martin is Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Archbishop John McDowell is Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh
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