In life or death, we are safe in the hands of God
For me, April always has been the herald of newness, recalling memories of childhood Easters when there was still a visual litany of delight present in the “Easter parade” at church where young girls wore crisp white gloves, patent leather shoes and the traditional flowered bonnet, and young boys squirmed under restrictive suit jackets with collars buttoned tight at the neck. Always there was the tie, a sign of maturity for some and a convenient source of distraction for others.
Buds just beginning on forsythia bushes, Easter lilies near the altar and tulips on the kitchen table were a sign of the season of life and a reminder that we would soon be visiting the local nursery to buy our annuals for planting in flower beds and boxes, bringing color and butterflies to our family backyard.
Dressed in my Easter finery I always felt a little like the butterfly just emerging from my cocoon, transformed from the ordinary into the extraordinary. Even after a long day of family visits and lengthy meals, I hated to change out of my new clothes and return to my pre-Easter self. Little did I know the experience would become a lesson of faith as I matured.
It seems that Christ’s Resurrection could not have taken place at any other time of the year but spring, this time of new growth and promise, of miracles and transformations.
During my life, this season of beginnings has often offered consolation and peace in those moments when, especially as a young woman, I was haunted by a great fear of death. To watch the mystery of spring unfold, to experience the beauty of life’s emergence from the cold ground of winter was to hear God’s assurance that “there is nothing to fear – all is life, all has its purpose, even death.”
Our Catholic faith reaffirms that death is not the end, teaching that “just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives forever, so after death the righteous will live forever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 989).
But what does it mean to be raised up?
In today’s troubled times, we may recall the song, “You Raise Me Up,” and the verse, “When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary; When troubles come and my heart burdened be; Then, I am still and wait here in the silence until you come and sit awhile with me.”
In life, as in death after the soul goes to meet God, we are raised up by God’s mercy and love. We may not understand fully the resurrection of the “last day,” but God gives us glimpses of this mystery in the little resurrections of daily life — the crocus pushing up through the snow, the early morning light which follows the dark of night, someone who has fallen under life’s burdens but has found the strength to get up again.
At the beginning of the 21st century St. John Paul II wrote in “Novo Millennio Ineunte:” “The truth of Christ’s Resurrection is the original fact upon which Christian faith is based. … We do not know what the new millennium has in store for us, but we are certain that it is safe in the hands of Christ, the ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’”
Safe in the hands of Christ – can any thought be more comforting as we face our uncertain futures, and ultimately our deaths? Certainly, this is reason enough to celebrate Christ’s Passover, not only on Easter, but on every Sunday, with gratitude and the reassurance of what it means to emerge from the cocoon of human existence to the freedom of resurrected life.