[With all the additional rituals and readings of the Easter Vigil Mass, you all wish for a short homily. Don’t worry, we share the same hope.]
Hope is the clear theme of Easter. But it is something so tied up with how we see our situation. Hope is one thing to young parents watching over the smiling face of their newborn baby, and another for a husband holding the hand of his cancer-stricken wife.
So how describe our situation? Some people I asked came up with variations of “nakakadismaya”—a word passed on to us by Spanish and related to the English “dismay,” both suggesting some unexpected disappointment. Just look at the sudden eruption of violence in international capitals at broad daylight and in dark alleys of our own, or at the unwelcome series of recent earthquakes throughout our islands. We are dismayed closer to home also—at family members who have not gotten their act together or even at ourselves despite sincere intentions and best efforts.
“Dismay” comes from “dis-” [to take away] and “may” [to be able to]. Dismay then has to do with “not being able to,” that is, helplessness that renders us isolated and alone.
How then does Easter hope address dismay? First, Easter tears down the walls that isolate us. When we feel too old and doubt we can do anything, there is the very senior citizen Abraham migrating to an unknown land; when we complain of unfulfilled desires in our loneliness, there is Israel eating manna in the desert. And most of all, when we suffer unbearable abandonment, there is Jesus crying on the Cross.
Easter connects us to each of them in a bond that stretches back billions of years ago into the genesis of everything. And the bond that weaves through the stories of Israel and ours, and holds them together is the work of the One who raised Jesus up from his dark lonely tomb and has not abandoned our world and left us to our own devices.
Second, because Easter connects us with God and all else, we are no longer powerless. When the unjust appears to have the upper hand, there is the slave-son Moses raising his arms before the Red Sea; when we are silent because of our unclean lips, there is Isaiah who dares to speak truth. And most of all, when we are drained of all strength, there is Jesus on the Cross entrusting his mother and beloved disciple to each other.
Easter enables us, empowers us because we are no longer alone. Bound to God in Jesus crucified and risen, and carried by the history of the world’s salvation, all we do, however ordinary, matter. Our stories, family genealogies and people’s history do not run around in circles or arrive at dead-ends. Doing all that we can do in our situation, we work with Jesus for healing of body and spirit, for nourishing family, and caring for our neighbors and the world.
Thus Easter hope overcomes dismay over what we see within and outside ourselves. It connects us, especially us whose obsession to be connected makes us the most active people on Facebook. It provides a connection more direct and immediate than the fastest real-time live-streaming with limitless data. It connects us to God, the beginning of everything and the bond of all. We can no longer remain dismayed; together we can and must, as followers of Jesus.