Our lives are torn with grief over the deaths that come to us on life’s journey. And as we age, there are more loved ones missing from our lives. For me, three of the people I miss the most are my parents and my late sister, Marion. Their deaths have left gaping holes in my heart, but they still serve as role models.
When I was young and grumbled about having to do something I didn’t want to do, my mother often replied, “Offer it up.” Like many Roman Catholics of that era, she wasn’t big on God-talk, but I think that what she was telling me was this: embrace what God has put before you, including the tough things, and let your life serve as an example of Christian service. Offer your life up as an example of love in action.
My sister endured a drawn-out death exacerbated by dementia. Anxiety often overwhelmed me when I was with her during her final years, seeing her abilities fade, like circuits being pulled out of an old-fashioned telephone switchboard. Speech became more and more difficult as time passed, and her mood went up and down like a yo-yo. Yet she said two words in almost every conversation that became a kind of living prayer: “Stay positive.” Yes, I still grieve her absence, but when her face floats up into my mind’s eye, I try to keep her positive outlook in mind.
We are an Easter people, and Easter invites us to look for resurrection when the death of dreams, of our spirit, of our lives as we have known them, seems imminent – when we receive almost daily reports that creation is under threat as never before from climate change, loss of biodiversity and other kinds of environmental damage; when a pandemic that has curtailed our lives so much during the past three years still leaves its grim mark on our spirits, both individually and as a nation.
We can choose to allow the resurrected Jesus to live through our bodies and voices, our thoughts and dreams, our arms and faces. We are the Body of Christ. This is not merely a nice metaphor; it speaks of a reality by which we live as Easter people. Living a new life with Christ means infinitely more than being a good church member. It means literally living with Him, and letting his spirit penetrate our being. “Behold, I make all things new,” God tells us (Revelation 21:5). God did not say he would make all new things but all things new. God is going to take what we are and make it new – if we are open to his invitation.
Jesus is with us now, within us. He is also outside us, in others. We meet him especially in those who need our love, those we can feed, clothe, visit, forgive, and work alongside towards a world that lives out justice and dignity for all. “Live by the Spirit… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:16-23).
Easter reminds us that our baptism must mean something; it should transform our lives and inspire us to hunger and thirst for justice and peace. It should lead us to commit to live by the values that Jesus embodied.
It’s far from easy to live out this call, especially in a world that entices us to think first and foremost of ourselves. One of the best ways to sustain us in this calling is to follow the example set before us by Jesus and by those we’ve known or still know, who embody new life in their actions, and can inspire us when the going gets tough. We can also be inspired by the miracle of new life we witness every spring: tender shoots of grass, plants and flowers springing up from what had been frozen ground only a few weeks earlier.