Easter Exhortation for Tough Times
April 21, 2021 (Msgr Charles Pope)
Easter is serious business with a message that summons us to the battle with confidence. In effect the message is this:
The Pentecost experience seemed to convict and encourage them and us: Enough of all this cowardice. No more hiding out in upper rooms. Get out there like soldiers who know you are on the winning team. Manfully engage the battle and win some souls for Christ. As in any war, there is going to be suffering. Jesus says, In this world you shall have tribulation; but have confidence I have overcome the world (John 16:33). The Easter message is not that there is no battle, but rather that the battle is a glorious one whose outcome has already been decided. Choose sides! Scripture says:
“Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His Blood, who has made us into a Kingdom, priests for His God and Father, to Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. All the peoples of the earth will lament Him. Yes, Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘the One who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Rev. 1:5-8).
Make sure you are on the winning team. Some people foolishly choose the wrong side, thinking that winning means having power, popularity, money, and possessions — that is not victory. A team can be ahead until the final play of the game yet still lose. You already know who is going to win; present appearances mean nothing. Choose the winning team even if, for now, it means being subjected to suffering, ridicule, disapproval, and desertion. Be ready and willing to suffer for the Kingdom. The Easter message is not that there is no suffering, but that our suffering, united to Jesus’, will lead to glory and victory.
Stop acting like a loser, hiding out and being afraid to announce the truth of the Gospel. Stop being so anxious about what others are saying. You may be called hateful, bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, backward, and uptight — anything but a child of God. Do not hate them, but keep on summoning them to join us; know that some will do so if you persevere. Be willing to suffer for the truth and still remain joyful.
Peter and John were arrested in the first week after Pentecost; can’t we at least tolerate a raised eyebrow or some laughter at our expense? The martyrs stared down deadly threats; they endured the swords and lions of a hateful, scornful world. Must they bear the cross alone?
The Easter message is not one of cheap joy. It is about a courageous transformation that equips us to be willing to face down death in order to proclaim the truth of the Gospel. Even after this plague ends, we are going to need courage and perseverance in the months and years ahead.
This fallen world has been getting darker, and a people who are used to the darkness despise the light. To those who hate the truth, the truth seems hateful; they will call themselves righteous as they expel us from the public square. They already label themselves victims at the mere utterance of moral truth. “Safe zones” have no room for us. Despite all their calls for tolerance, there will be no tolerance shown to us. Our speech and our actions will be increasingly criminalized. Thus, beyond the plague, these challenges still face us.
So here is an Easter exhortation in tough times. But remember, Jesus is risen from the dead and He is not going away. He has won the victory and we will either gather souls with Him, or we will scatter and squander. I will work for Him and win, or I will contend with Him and lose. I think I’ll choose Jesus!