A few years ago I got an email from a friend of mine to say that he and some others were setting up a group called ‘Count me in’. This was a group of mostly young people who wanted to stand up for their faith and be counted and to do whatever they could to bring about renewal in the Church in Ireland. They were starting this group partly in reaction to another group called ‘Count me out’ which, as you might guess, was a group of people who no longer wanted to have anything to do with the Church. I must admit I was very heartened to hear of this group ‘Count me in’ especially being started by young Catholics who felt the need to stand up and be counted. As my friend so rightly stated in his letter to me, ‘Though we want very much to count ourselves out from any kind of abuse and cover-up by individual Church members and ministers, there is no way we can count ourselves out from Christ’s Body and from his offer of salvation.’ I was hoping for and half expecting that something like that would happen, as the Holy Spirit always moves people at the right time.
At a time when we are seeing so many very frightening things in the world, it is good to remind ourselves who it is we believe in. We believe in the Son of God who conquered death and evil. If we stay focused on the world and what is going on, we could easily become overwhelmed with fear and even despairing. But if we keep our focus on Jesus we will see the world in a different way. Remember that his death was just like some of the horrific and pointless killings that we are hearing about in the news; the death of completely innocent people.
I can’t help thinking of the time when Jesus gave the teaching about his body and blood, saying that ‘Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you cannot have life in you.’ It says that ‘After this many of his followers stopped going with him.’ His teaching was too much for them. But when he turned to the disciples and said, ‘What about you. Do you want to go away too?’ Peter said, ‘Lord to whom shall we go, you have the message of eternal life.’ That is very much how I feel myself. I am horrified and disheartened by all the horrors we are hearing about in our world, but I also feel, where else would I go? I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he is Lord and that he has revealed God to us. Why would I want to go anywhere else?
What has all this to do with Easter you might ask? What is key to the event of Easter is that it was the last thing that anyone expected to happen. As far as the disciples were concerned it was all over. The master had been killed and they didn’t know what to do. It took quite a bit of convincing for them to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. When the women first came to them and told them that they had seen a vision of angels who told them Jesus was alive, the Apostles simply didn’t believe them. Then Jesus began to appear to them himself and it still took quite a while for them to really believe.
Either Jesus rose from the dead or he didn’t. If he did, then we have nothing to be afraid of, because it is the Son of God who is guiding his Church, who continues to make himself present in each mass, who continues to minister to his people through the priesthood. If the resurrection of Jesus is not true, then none of us should be here, because everything we believe in is based on the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead.
All that happened at Easter was totally unexpected. The worst disaster—the death of the only completely innocent man—was turned into the greatest event imaginable, an event that changed the course of history. This man Jesus, whom we celebrate, is Lord and he is the one who is guiding us. He is the one we believe in and we must keep going back to his words and his teachings. ‘In the world you will have trouble. But do not be afraid; I have overcome the world.’ Remember too that several of his apostles let him down badly, but it didn’t stop Jesus from using them and from passing his teaching on to us.
At the moment our faith is being tested with what is going on in the world, but we must remember the event of Easter. God turned everything around when people least expected it and in a way that they could never have imagined. This is the God we believe in, who is just as powerfully present to us today. So let us never lose heart or be afraid. God has always been with his people and He always will be.
‘I am with you always. Yes, until the end of the world.’