He was betrayed by the one whom He chose to be His disciple; jeered by the very ones who shouted "Hosanna Son of David;" castigated by those He fed, cured, healed, saved and preached to; rejected by the very ones he defended. He even felt rejected by His father as He cried out: "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46).
All these prevailed until that holy night, that fateful Sunday morning, when God spoke the last word in favor of His own Son by raising Him from death. In this very act of the Resurrection, God laid out some basic principles for successful living.
Believe that God is on your side
The experiences of Christ in the days leading up to the crucifixion tell our story as we navigate through the maze of living life on earth. In many ways, life does not cooperate with our efforts. Among other things, we may have to deal with broken promises and betrayals; lack of support and sometimes abandonment from those who promised to be there; failures and disappointment in our endeavors. Sometimes we are moved to wonder, like the Israelites, if "The Lord is still in our midst or not?" (Exodus 17:7).
The good news from Christ's resurrection is that God is still in our midst and that He is on our side. The apostle Paul tells us that, "God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will also raise us (from our own difficulties) through His spirit that dwells in us" (Romans 8:11). The Resurrection is God's way of unleashing the power of faith necessary for us to counter our fears, re-evaluate our dreams and potentials and reclaim our purpose
and value in life.
Let go of the past and focus on the present
The Resurrection of Christ is a declaration of present and future blessings and a letting go of the past. "He is not here, He is risen" declared the angel. Why look for the living among the dead? Christ's death took our ugly past with it. His resurrection announced the brightness of our today and tomorrow.
As St. Paul says: "forgetting what lies behind, (let's) strain forward to what lies ahead, (and) continue (our) pursuit toward the goal, the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-15). Christ's resurrection is an invitation for us to press forward no matter what the adversity may be and to hold on to hope in the face of hopelessness.
The Resurrection calls us to focus on what God is doing right here and now. We need to let go of failed relationships, anger, disappointments and insecurities and embrace the Alleluia of Easter Sunday. God does not need our past in order to bless us today. Our past failures are only a moment in our history. They should not define who we are meant to be.
Anchor your hope in the Lord
There is the story of a little bear cub that was playing in the midst of shrubs. He suddenly smelled danger and looking up saw a lion coming in his direction poised to attack. The little cub froze knowing very well that he had no change with the lion and that his last seconds with life were at hand.
As the lion was about to take a dash toward the cub, it suddenly stopped and began to back off and then turned and ran in the opposite direction. The little cub took a deep breath and thought in his mind that his poise must have scared the lion away. Little did the cub know that what happened was that mama bear showed up behind him as the lion made his last move for the kill. Life is all about who is standing behind you.
The writer of Ecclesiastes, after exploring all that could be explored, enjoyed all that could be enjoyed, amassed as much wealth as could be amassed, and did everything that could be done on the face of the earth, declared that "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."
We are sometimes tempted to anchor hope in our own strength, abilities, and achievement; in material things, human love and promises; in wealth and power. The question therefore is: where is our hope for successful living anchored? The Bible tells us that those who hope in the Lord "are like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season. Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers" (Psalm 1:3).
Believe you will overcome We must always remember that, many times in life, our blessings lie on the other side of our pain. No wonder the Bible encourages us to "boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope that does not disappoint us" (Romans 5:3-5).
Therefore, let your problems drive you closer to God. Always look beyond your anguish so that your life does not stop on a "Good Friday" experience. On that fateful Good Friday, many of the people walked away in despair. But for those who gathered in the upper room praying, the Good News was on the way. God always has a plan that goes beyond Good Friday. God's plan for you includes an Easter Sunday.
Let us celebrate this Easter with style. Let this year's Easter Alleluia announce a new beginning in our lives. Tell yourself that "this is my Easter to rise" and tell a family member or friend: "Don't let this Easter pass you by."
(Father Anselm I. Nwaorgu, Ph.D., is the pastor of Blessed Sacrament/Saint Charles Borromeo Parish, Newark. He is a former president of the African Conference of Catholic Clergy and Religious in the United States.)