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Saturday, March 25, 2017
Bristol: Easter message from Bishop Declan Lang
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¬†A quote from a conversation I had with someone recently: "The world today is so bleak and full of fear, we could all so easily be drawn into relationships in which we hate one another." Fear, anger and hate are understandable reactions after terrorist attacks, especially when innocent people are killed and families destroyed. The violence is callous and inhuman. Justice demands that people are called to account and punished for what they have done. One person angrily commented after the bombings in Madrid that he did not believe in God, but if there was a hell he hoped that the terrorists would burn there. Violence does breed violence. After the assassination of Sheikh Ahmen Yessin in Palestine, talk was immediately about vengeance. People were not asking if there would be reprisals but when they would happen. Fear spread, not just in Israel but throughout a number of European countries, including our own. In the midst of this violence and fear what is the significance of Easter? Is it just a Christian side show which has become irrelevant to our 21st century? Or is there a meaning to Easter that gives us hope for our future? Christians believe that Jesus teaches a way of life which he lived himself, a way which leads to the true discovery of ourselves. He opens our eyes when we have lost sight of God, of others and even our self. Jesus comes from God not to condemn the world but to love the world and all who live in it. Indeed in Jesus we find the presence of God ≠ a God who speaks of forgiveness and reconciliation. In the face of violence what does Jesus say? He says: "You must love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you". From the Cross he prayed: "Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing". Jesus was not naÔve. He knew people were enemies to one another. He knew people considered him an enemy. But his reaction was not to respond with hate but with love. For many people this was foolish. For many people today, this still seems foolish but Jesus proclaims this as the way of freedom and hope. Jesus did not come to die. He came to love. He freely went to the cross because he realised the price of love is sacrifice. Such a sacrifice of himself revealed a new way of life ≠ Easter life. Nothing, not even death, is stronger than love. Love does conquer everything. The Easter message is still challenging. We can ignore it, thinking that it is impossible for people to live in such a loving way today. We can claim that Jesus lived in another time and a less sophisticated culture. But that is making excuses. He lived in violent times when fear was often used to control people but he refused to be controlled. The virtuous person is by his or her very existence a threat to those who seek to intimidate others. Recognising this, the enemies of Jesus were determined to rid themselves of him. He was crucified out of hate. He rose from the dead out of love. Many people today say that Christianity has lost its cutting edge. There is not so much hostility as indifference. Perhaps if we regain the radical message of love, we will find once more what inspired so many people to follow Christ. In Christ we find healing and inner peace. As my friend, who I quoted at the beginning said "Someone had to show us how to change and give us hope". That person was and is Jesus. May I wish you a happy Easter. For more news from Clifton Diocese visit:
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