Inequalities – Jett Villarin, SJ

Mark 16:1-7, Easter Sunday 2018

I propose three inequalities for our Easter reflection today. The Easter truth of Christ risen in our midst, living intimately in our lives, reinforces these inequalities. These inequalities are:

True > false

Light > dark

Love > death

True > false. We hold this inequality to be true, even if the opposite seems to prevail in our world today. The converse, that true is less than or even equal to false (true <= false), is played out in the countless ways fake news is propagated online or otherwise. Even the empty tomb is given a spin by the religious rulers of Jesus’ time: the body was stolen; and it was stolen despite the heavy stone and the night’s watch. False is made to be greater than true to protect those who are in power.

Actually, numberwise, false > true. This is because lies compound themselves. The truth is simple and unadorned. There is only one true story. We can make up hundreds of fake variations of that one story. And thanks to the internet, we can even multiply these lies a millionfold. So in that sense, false > true. In another more worrisome sense, false is made to be greater than true because we have come to expect that lies and deception will get us to where we want to go. Liars do get away with murder. Truthtellers are scourged and crucified.

If the Easter story were just a concoction of deluded disciples, our gathering this evening, the very meaning of our lives, all this would be in vain. And the life of Jesus would have been just another prophet’s story. But because of the truth of Easter, we are able to proclaim to ourselves and to each other that God is true and that the truth we so desire is ultimately of God. Through stories we tell one another (from Genesis to Exodus to today), we profess that God’s Word was in the beginning and through him all things came to be and by him all things shall come to rest. Because Christ is risen, we know God to be true to his Word, we know God’s Word to be true.

Light > dark. If you think in terms of number of hours of light in a day, yes, around this time after the equinox, we will have more light than dark (at least for the northern hemisphere). That’s how lent got its name, from the lengthening of daylight, the stretching of God’s love at a time of human contraction and flight.

And yet, in a more sinister sense, dark does appear to be greater than light. I speak of the psychology and politics of the dark. Even if dark is episodic, we are strangely drawn to it. We like to tell ghost stories. When was the last time you told or heard an angel story? Our list of sins can be longer than our list of graces. The dark is catchier and messianic leaders take advantage of narratives that tell us how bad we are.

If Christ had not been raised, we would all have gone home straight after Calvary, distraught and depressed, believing how bad we are and how we can never be forgiven for what we have done or not done. If it were not for the light of Easter, we would still be living in the shadows, convinced that all this light is just passing and we are beyond redemption. However, because Christ indeed is risen in our midst, we believe God’s light to be enduring. We know that Easter light can be all this light tonight, and it can also be this one little light from this one candle, holding fire against the dark.

Love > death. Admittedly, before Easter, we knew death to be greater than anything at all. Death was the default, the unavoidable outcome of everything. Once we’re dead, we’re dead for a long time. We are only alive for 80 to 90 years. We’ll be dead for far longer than that (at least as far as earth-years are concerned).

Try to imagine the consequences if death were greater than everything else. In the end, death would be the end, there would only be fear, and life wouldn’t matter. True and false, light and dark, all these would go down the sinkhole that is death. All our loving would have been in vain. All the joyful and sorrowful and glorious mysteries that accompany our loving would have been for nothing.

And yet because of Easter, we know now that death is not the last word. Death does not nullify life; death does not void the love that gives meaning to our lives. From the cross of Christ, we discover that true love, God’s love, stays with us to the very end of our human journey. Within the empty tomb, even without seeing him in the flesh, we sense with our companions in the faith, in this community that is the Church, that death cannot be the end. Because Christ is risen, we believe that love is stronger than death. Love is the first word; it is also the last. Love lasts; death does not.

True > false. Light > dark. Love > death. These are the three inequalities that are reinforced by our Easter faith. As an Easter people, we are called to strengthen these in our lives as well. Because Christ is indeed risen, we shall live our lives, knowing God to be true, seeing God to be light for our way in the dark, and turning to God who is love, whose love is stronger than false or dark or death.

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