The joy of Easter comes from the fact that it offers something unexpected. In two days’ time, we shift our focus from the sadness of Jesus’ brutal torture and crucifixion to the glorious news of the resurrection. We are reminded that even in the truly darkest moments, God’s plan still conquers all. Easter is meant to bring us the same joy that Mary, Peter and the other disciples felt when they discovered Jesus had risen!
Yet this year, as many of us awoke on Easter morning, we learned of what occurred in Sri Lanka, where terrorists bombed several sites, including two Catholic churches, killing more than 250 people. Before many of us could celebrate God’s ultimate triumph over evil, we were confronted with the reality of evil in our world. It was like we were right back to Good Friday.
Unfortunately, it seems as though acts of hatred and violence are on the rise. The death of these innocent victims in Sri Lanka is particularly astounding, with so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ among the dead. Several children were killed while waiting to receive their first holy Communion. As I think about the children in our diocese who will receive first Communion in the coming weeks, my heart breaks for these young people and for all the victims of this terrible tragedy.
While the news of the bombing initially surprised me, the truth is that it really is not that surprising. Even in this country we are facing greater division and violence. I think part of the reason for this division is that many people are ignoring God or thinking of him as a fairy tale. For many, God has no say in how a person ought to live their life.
In God’s place we’ve created idols that capture our attention and influence our thinking. These idols can be found in forms of entertainment, the lure of likes and retweets on social media, or ideologies which we hold with such fervor that we leave no space for other ideas. No matter what the idol, if it overtakes God in our lives, we will soon find ourselves becoming more selfish, less concerned with others and consumed with satisfying our worst impulses. It’s no surprise then that hatred and violence seem to be so powerful in today’s world.
So what can we do? I think we can learn from the stories of the Old Testament, which often recount how the Israelites fell away from God to worship various idols. When they did, God called forth prophets like Elijah, Isaiah and Jeremiah to call the Israelites back to worship the one, true God.
Today, in that same spirit, I am calling on all of us to recommit ourselves to the Lord. We can do this by honoring the Lord’s Day, taking time each Sunday to offer praise to God. We can do this by faithfully living out the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. Ultimately, we can do this every day by putting God first in our lives and living as true disciples of Christ. We must take these steps because, as we saw this Easter, there are many souls at stake!
So please join me in praying this Easter season that the Prince of Peace would bring an end to this hatred and violence in the world. I ask you to pray in particular for the victims of the bombing in Sri Lanka. Perhaps parishes can offer a special prayer for the young victims when they celebrate first Communion this year.
Finally, let us always remember that we are an Easter people. Even when we are confronted with the reality of evil on Easter Sunday, may we remember that God has conquered evil once and for all. Inspired by God’s unending love for us, may we all dedicate ourselves to bringing Christ’s peace to our world!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter at @BpDavidRicken.