Many Christians prepare for Easter through self-sacrifice, by forgoing one thing or another. At times, this may seem difficult. But if we look at the period leading up to Easter as a time of misery, I think we’re missing the point.
Jesus effectively said that we are to die to ourselves in order to live. By putting our selfishness aside, we can find our real selves in God.
It’s not about being obsessed with death – it never has been. The focus on death and dying is a means of reminding us that what we understand as our life is not the whole picture. Life can be filled with joy and longing instead of misery and fear.
The truth of Easter is not always readily apparent. It requires a preparedness to let go, so that we may see more clearly… so that we may receive the free gift of grace that is offered.
Grace is usually about surrendering control. It frees us from what seems to be ours.
We can miss this gift if we’re not paying attention. It’s a bit like when it rains. Sometimes we don’t even pause to take in the smell of rain, which is a grace in itself. We tend to duck and run for cover to avoid getting wet.
At Easter time, the gift that Jesus gives goes something like this:
“Here is your life. You haven’t been paying much attention to it lately. Here it is again. Good things and bad things are going to happen. Don’t be afraid. Nothing can separate you from the love of God”.
And, as with the rain, the truth of Easter can sometimes wash our eyes.
The Poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in his Book of Hours:
“My looking ripens things
And they come toward me, to meet and be met.”
We’re not always able to give meaning to the events of the world but, if we slow ourselves down, sometimes meaning comes to meet us.
This Easter break, I would urge you to take some time to look at something you might normally just glance at. Focus your gaze and maybe you just might find something that is looking back.
And as your looking ripens, maybe you might like to go a bit further afield, beginning with say the recent cyclones in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Vanuatu.
If domestic politics is your thing, you might like to focus on the new Federal Migration Amendment Bill, the one drawn up to “maintain the good order of Immigration Detention Facilities”. Or perhaps the threatened closure of 150 Aboriginal communities in Western Australia.
Rather than name all the issues of concern overseas, I will leave it to you to quietly wrestle with the disturbances of your heart.
Abba Anthony, known by many as the father of asceticism said, “when you sit quietly alone you escape three wars: hearing, speaking, and seeing. The one thing you will fight all the time is your heart.”
Keep your heart with all vigilance this Easter, for from it flow the springs of life. [Proverbs 4:23]