Some years ago there was a Protestant minister in Great Britain—we’ll call him Rev. Holloway—who didn’t feel quite right; there was something wrong with his throat, and his right leg seemed to be dragging. He went to his doctor, and after a series of tests, and consultation with his colleagues, the physician gave the minister the bad news: he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease—after the famous New York Yankee Hall of Fame baseball player, who died of it at the age of 37. The doctor sadly and gently explained to Rev. Holloway what would happen: his muscles would gradually waste away, his voice would fail, and eventually he’d be unable to swallow.
Naturally, the diagnosis was quite a shock to the minister, but he decided to stay as busy as he could for as long as possible. In addition to his regular work in his parish and his time with his family, he wrote books and articles, organized prayer groups, and visited those who were suffering worse than himself. As his doctor had warned, eventually his legs wasted away and he could no longer speak, but he could still hold a pen and write with a shaky hand. On Easter Sunday, a few weeks before he died, Rev. Holloway wrote a letter to his daughter in which he said, “It is terrible to wake up on Easter morning and have no voice with which to shout, ‘He is risen!’ I can think of only one thing more terrible: To have a voice . . . and not want to shout it” (Donald Deffner, p. 56). Everything God gives us, no matter how wonderful it is, is ultimately wasted . . . unless we use it in His service, and this is most especially true of the gift of life itself. Easter is the sign of God’s power to give us a new life lasting for all eternity. It must also demonstrate our grateful and loving response.
Mary Magdalene, and then Simon Peter and another disciple, meaning St. John, discovered that the stone had been rolled back from the tomb. This was an invitation to look inside and to discover the truth of the Resurrection: their Lord and Master had been raised up; the One Who had died in agony and defeat a few days earlier now possessed new and glorious life. It took a while for them to comprehend this glorious Good News, but it was true, just as Jesus Himself had promised. As St. Peter announced, “He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that He is the One appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:34a, 37-43) God gave the disciples a great gift, and they did not waste it; they spent their lives evangelizing and proclaiming the wonders the Lord had done. This is the Easter example we are given to follow.
The Good News of Easter is very simple: Christ is Risen, death has been conquered, and we are offered the chance for everlasting life. How can we do our part in proclaiming this? One way is by practicing our faith, which includes coming to church each week, obeying God’s commandments, giving a good example, praying regularly (and not just when we need something), and putting God at the center of our lives. Doing these things shows that faith can make a difference, and that Easter commemorates a real event, not a myth. Another way of proclaiming the Good News is by recognizing Jesus in the people around us, and responding to them in their needs. This includes helping the poor, spending time with the lonely, treating others as we wish to be treated, forgiving those who hurt us, and sharing our faith with those in despair. Living in this manner witnesses to the truth that love is stronger than hatred and that life is stronger than death. A final way of bearing witness to Jesus is by maintaining our hope in the face of all life’s difficulties, as did the Protestant minister in Great Britain. If we encounter great suffering, we can choose to face it with despair, or with hope; our choice will either imprison us or liberate us. Sharing in the agony of Good Friday makes it possible for us to share in the joy of Easter. Moreover, if we believe in Christ, our example will make it easier for others to believe—and if we help someone else come to faith, we’ll one day understand that this is one of the greatest and most important things we’ve ever done.
Jesus is Risen—and each day we are either proclaiming this message . . . or denying it. Today the Lord invites us to make our choice once again—and if we choose to be witnesses to His Resurrection, He promises a life and a joy that will have no end.