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Mercy Moments: Episode Nine

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

    because he has anointed me

        to bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives

    and recovery of sight to the blind,

        to let the oppressed go free…”

Luke 4:18

I found myself accidentally shopping for Easter cards for my goddaughters a few weeks ago.  I had sent them all Valentines, so I figured I better send cards acknowledging the greatest feast on the Church calendar too. 

Easter cards are tricky.  There’s a real mix of options.  We’ve got the cards with lilies that would be better suited for a funeral home’s website and then we’ve got some pretty wacky bunnies and chicks and colorful eggs.  I landed on a wacky one in the hopes that I could make it both religious and fun at the same time.  The Easter message inside the card included wishes for new beginnings, warm memories, and magical moments. 

So in my note in the card, I simply spun the resurrection as the greatest magic trick of all time.  Kids like wacky cards.  Parents appreciate God-talk (even if it’s not exactly sound theology).

The Resurrection.  While not magic, it certainly is inexplicable and yet it’s the basis for our faith; the reason for our hope.

Last year I wrote that I thought we might all be stuck on Good Friday because unfortunately, that’s understandable. Relatable even.  The crucifixions of innocent people are everywhere we look.  Good Friday is in the war decimating Ukraine, the government imposed terror inflicted on Venezuelans, the plight of refugees all over the world, and the mass shootings that continue to plague our country.  Racism, oppression, injustice, and violence abound.  Christ is crucified all around us.

But if it’s a glimpse of the resurrection for which we are seeking, we might reflect more on how Jesus lived than how he died.  As noted in Luke’s Gospel, the mission of Jesus was one of liberation – “to let the oppressed go free.”

The mystery of the resurrection is first revealed in the incarnation – God with us.  And the work of the incarnation is encounter and accompaniment.  Jesus forgave, healed, and loved throughout his public ministry.  Time and time again when he encountered someone in need – someone distressed, lonely, excluded, or unwell – he was moved with compassion.  In a constant act of solidarity, Jesus was present to the suffering of others even when it put him at risk.  In fidelity to his mission, he became a victim of the empire. 

When I lived in Ohio, we took students to Lucasville.  A small, rural town about four hours from Cleveland, the public school is positioned directly across the street from the correctional facility where the state’s executions take place.  We drove through the night to meet up with a small community of regular protesters led by a Catholic sister committed to ending the death penalty.  We prayed and sang songs in the parking lot right outside the death house until at 10am, the group went silent as Sr. Alice began to toll the bell without ceasing until she received a call from inside.  “It is finished.” 

I know.  Not all victims of capital punishment are innocent like Jesus.

Still, from what we know about Jesus’ life and ministry, he refused to enact violence even to save himself.  In fact, he practiced nonviolence in all of his encounters.  He rejected fear as a motivating factor.  He chose to love and in doing so, he continues to accompany us, especially in our suffering, even to our death.

Dostoevsky wrote, “The world will be saved by beauty.”  And while I agree with this statement, I’ve never actually made it through a Dostoevsky novel, so I’m not certain of the context here.  Art and fashion and bold colors and flower arrangements are some of my favorite things, but I can’t imagine he was writing about any of that.  I believe the beauty that saves is the beauty of an all-embracing compassion, a loving accompaniment, an understanding solidarity, a dignity-affirming encounter, an attentive liberation, and a ministry of presence. 

It’s the saving beauty of community.  That’s the beauty that reveals glimpses of the resurrection.  And while the resurrection is still a mystery, we are called to make the beauty of both the incarnation and the resurrection as understandable, relatable, and prevalent as the suffering of Good Friday. 

So maybe Easter cards should be beautiful, not wacky. 

And instead of wishes for new beginnings, may there be prayers for experiences of new life born out of healing and forgiveness. 

Instead of warm memories, may there be prayers to recall sacred memories reminding us that our God accompanies us in both our joy and our suffering. 

And instead of magic moments, may we be grounded in the hope of the miraculous moments in which our God of accompaniment is revealed in the beauty of everyday life.

Thank you for joining us for this season of Mercy Moments. You can find the archive of season two and season one episode on our website here. We hope this journey has been one of challenge, reward, faith, and hope – and we look forward to connecting with you again in the future! As always, peace be with you.