There is an old story about a rabbi who gathered all his students together very early one morning while it was still dark. He asked them to pay attention because he had an important question to ask them.
The question was this: How could they tell when night had ended and the new day was dawning?
They thought for a while, and finally one student answered: “Could it be when you see an animal and can tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?”
“No,” the rabbi answered.
Another student asked: “Could it be when you look at a tree in the distance and can identify its fruit?”
Once again, the rabbi answered, “No.”
After a few more guesses, the students demanded to know. “Well, what is it then?”
The rabbi replied, “It is when you look upon the face of any woman or man and see that she is your sister and that he is your brother. If you cannot do this, then no matter what the hour, it is still night.”
That teaching is echoed in the First Letter of St. John:
“...I am writing you a new commandment that is true in [Jesus Christ] and in you.... Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. (1 John. 2:8b-9)
Easter extends to each and every one of us the invitation to come out of darkness and into the light of the risen Christ. It is this light that beckons us to stop loitering in the dark, to stop hanging around the graveyards of life, because it is a light that enables us to embrace hope. It suggests that we are too quick to pronounce the last word on other people.
When Jesus conquers death, nobody can be written off as a lost cause.
The two Marys went to the Lord’s tomb on Sunday morning in the same way that you and I, in our grief, might go visit the grave of a loved one. It was there that they experienced the miracle.
As the light of day began to fill the heavens, the son of God was rising from his grave. Jesus rose, he appeared to them and later to his disciples, and the power of Easter began to work in their lives.
In the coming days and weeks, those disciples were transformed from a disorganized band of people floundering in despair, into a unified witness, a powerful group of missionaries who set out to carry the message of Easter to all who would listen.
Everywhere that the good news was heard, the power of Easter began to work in the lives of other people, just as it had in their own. Beautiful things began to happen. Despair gave way to hope; darkness gave way to light; hatred gave way to love; sorrow gave way to joy — and it all happened because the power of Easter began to transform people and work miracles in their lives.
Those transformations and miracles haven’t stopped; they continue to take place each and every day.
Easter happens whenever we dry our tears, brush ourselves off and start over. It happens whenever we have an experience that renews our faith. It happens whenever light begins to shatter the darkness. Easter invites us to open our hearts to the risen Lord, and to let him do for us what he did for those first disciples.
The good news of Easter is that the risen Christ is in our midst ready to infuse the dryness of everyday life with the glory and excitement of God’s new creation. It is the good news that nothing need defeat us, because Jesus’ victory can be ours.
And that’s why Christians throughout the ages have gathered together on this day. In communities large and small, in great city cathedrals and small country churches, people gather to offer their praise and thanksgiving to God for the gift of Resurrection life. Come and join hands, hearts and voices with us, as we declare that he lives!
[Guest editorial in the Observer-Dispatch]