As I was pondering Easter this year, I was called to see one of my patients in his home because it was difficult for him to come to my office.
He had fought well with his illness, but the illness was winning. He was a man with no personal hope of resurrection.
“I have finally come to realize this week that I am dying. This is the end,” he told me.
“You’ve got it wrong, “ I told him. “Someday you will die, and probably it won’t be many weeks. But until that day, you are living; and our job is to make sure you live each day the best you can.”
As I think back on my encounter, besides thinking of all the beautiful words of Christian witness I might have used but didn’t, I realize that within this man’s words lies my deep seeded need for Easter.
Easter is my answer to living and Easter is my answer to dying.
As humans we live, but our living is so incomplete. We seek fulfillment through the first three levels of happiness: sensation, ego, service---and realize that there is something great we are still missing. There is that fourth level of happiness that comes only in knowing God Himself. Thus there is an emptiness in our lives that C.S. Lewis describes as a car that is made to run on God and cannot run on other fuel. An emptiness that has Augustine declare, “You have made us for Thyself, O God. Our hearts will ever restless be until they find their rest in Thee.”
And Jesus cries into this emptiness with Easter, “I am alive. I am the way.”
As humans we die. To paraphrase Ernest Becker from his Denial of Death, “We live this life as little gods with great dreams that reach beyond ourselves, with enough grandeur and enough nobility to fill up eternity. But we are gods with anuses and gods who die, and some day will be but food for the worms.”
Then Easter cries, “Today you will be with me in Paradise!” (Luke 23:43b, ESV).
Easter is the definitive “Yes!” for our deepest desires.
So, what do I do with Easter? Certainly I live it in and interpret all of my life through my vision of the risen Lord.
And also, I live it out. As Richard John Neuhaus wrote in his Death on a Friday Afternoon, “Souls are saved by souls who live out their salvation by thinking and living differently, with a martyr’s resolve, in a world marked by falsehood, baseness, injustice, impurity, ugliness and mediocrity.”
Dear Father, Spirit and Risen Son, Three in One,
Make Easter an inseparable part of my life, forever.