A Promise That We Shall Live Forever

A Promise That We Shall Live Forever

Once there was a woman named Diane who went to her pastor and told him a true story about something that had happened when she was a girl. Some would say it was a sad or even tragic story, but Diane was convinced it had happy ending. When she was eight years old, she lived on a farm with her parents and her nine-year-old brother Larry. The two children had a highly unusual relationship for a brother and sister of that age: they liked each other and enjoyed one another’s company; when they weren’t busy helping their parents or taking care of the farm animals, the two children chased each other around the farm buildings, played hide-and-seek in the woods, or rambled through the meadow. One day Diane was invited to go to a ballgame with two of her friends. Larry wanted to go along, but Diane said the game was just for girls, and they didn’t want any boys tagging along. The parents agreed with her and dropped Larry off at a neighbor’s farm. When the family arrived at the game, there was a message for them to return home at once, for a terrible accident had occurred. The neighbor had been driving his tractor, with Larry riding on the back; when the tractor hit a bump, the boy was thrown forward and down under one of the big rear wheels. The farmer stopped the tractor, carefully picked up the injured boy, and rushed him to the hospital, but it was too late; Larry died of his injuries a short time later. When Diane and her family learned what had happened, she felt a terrible, agonizing sense of guilt as she thought, “If I had let Larry come with us to the game, this wouldn’t have happened; he’d still be alive.”

On the third night after her brother’s funeral, Diane suddenly awakened and sat up in bed—and saw Larry sitting on the windowsill in her room. The two of them just sat there in silence for a few minutes, looking at each other; then Larry vanished before Diane’s eyes. When she told her parents her brother had visited her, they believed her—and so did her pastor years later. Diane told him, “To this day when I close my eyes, I can see Larry sitting there just as he was that night when he appeared in my room.” “Why do you think he came?” the pastor asked, and Diane answered, “I felt it was his way of saying goodbye, and God’s way of freeing me from guilt and giving me peace by showing me that my brother is alive” (John Sumwalt, Lectionary Stories, p. 77). Easter is not only a celebration of the wonderful truth that our brother Jesus is alive, but also a promise that we too shall live forever if we place our trust in Him.

Mary of Magdala had been a terrible sinner, but after Jesus’ love and mercy prompted her conversion, she become one of His most loyal and devoted followers—one of the very few brave enough to stand beneath His Cross on Calvary. With her “take charge” attitude, it’s not surprising that she was the first one to discover the empty tomb, that she was the one who informed Peter and John of this fact, and that soon afterwards, she would be the first one to see the Risen Lord. Just as Diane’s vision of her brother changed her life, so Mary Magdalene’s experience on Easter Sunday forever changed her. We too must encounter Jesus in a life-changing way. As St. Peter promises, “everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins through His Name.”  

We are all in need of this forgiveness, and so, as St. Paul tells us, we must seek what is above, rather than placing our hopes in this world, for it is only through Christ that we can live forever in glory. On Easter Sunday the course of history was forever changed in a radical and amazing manner, and you and I are given the glorious opportunity to experience and reflect this truth in a very personal way. The Lord is calling us to be trusting and hope-filled, rather than despairing; generous, rather than selfish; supportive of each other, rather than critical; forgiving, rather than resentful; and faithful in fulfilling our religious duties, rather than lax or complacent. We too can have the experience of life conquering death—but only to the extent that we place Jesus first in our lives.

A devout Christian once gave an Easter card to his wife which said, “You know we don’t give Easter presents because Easter itself is the best present. It tells us that we shall be able to love each other forever and ever.” When Diane had her vision of her brother Larry, he didn’t have to say anything to her; his presence said it all. In the same way, the presence of the Risen Christ on Easter Sunday promises and proclaims that our hopes for joy, peace, and eternal life can be fulfilled; this wonderful gift will be ours if we try to live out our faith. Jesus is risen; let us give Him our gratitude, our love, and our trust.

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Written by
Fr Joseph Esper