Daily our Easter faith is being tested. This week is no exception. The Manchester concert bombing in which many young people died and were injured sent shudders down our corporate spine. That bombing could have taken place in any big city or venue. Then in the parish I am conscious of those dealing with cancer or other ongoing medical treatments and of those who have lost loved ones in recent times, spouses, elderly parents or friends cut down in mid-life. On a national level the news about the upcoming budget is deeply depressing with talk about cutbacks to benefits for the poorest and most marginal in our society while at the same time planning for a massive increase for the military. Without dwelling on all the bad news, you have to admit it can easily make you depressed, cynical and indeed questioning of all that talk of the new life, hope, joy and peace in the Easter message.
Of course, in all of life we need to keep a sense of perspective. Sometimes we do literally have to “count our blessings.” It is so easy to take for granted so much we have and enjoy and are surrounded by. Whether it is the love of family and friends; or the pleasure of gardens at this time of the year; or the richness of art, music, theater and performance including our own church music which we enjoy and which enriches us; or the endless variety and fascination of the human life we encounter day by day; and especially the simplest of pleasures that relax us and give us satisfaction from a meal or a drink with friends to a telephone conversation with someone important to us.
The Easter season which embraces the Ascension (celebrated yesterday officially but which we will keep on Sunday) and Pentecost (June 4) provides an eternal perspective for the whole of life including our death. We proclaim as Christians that in the Resurrection of Jesus Life overcame Death; that is “Death does not have the last word.” In the Ascension we proclaim that Jesus ascended to the “Right hand of Go,” in other words Jesus joins God the Father in his sovereignty over all things, “God is in charge”. At Pentecost, the conclusion of the Great Fifty Days of Easter, we proclaim that the Spirit of God and his Risen Christ is given to the Church of which we are part; God enables us to share in his work of love, reconciliation and justice.
So take heart that God is still God; take heart that the future is ultimately God’s; take heart that we all have a part to play in working for a better world where justice, peace, mercy and love overcome hatred, violence, injustice and evil.