by Sheila Cassidy

Acts 10:34, 37-43 | Colossians 3:1-4 | John 20:1-9

They killed Jesus finally, hanging him on a tree, only to have God raise him up on the third day. (Acts 10:39b-40a)

They killed Ita Ford, raped her in the back of a transit van, then shot her through the back of the head and buried her in a shallow grave. The wild youths hit the old man, kicked his ribs in, left him to die in the gutter, just for the hell of it…

It makes you want to throw up, doesn’t it? It’s too hard to handle, not really a suitable subject for today. Easter is a happy day, a day for clean spring dresses, Easter eggs, family luncheons and a walk by the sea. It’s a day to forget about evil, a day to thank God for the springtime.

All that’s right and proper, I suppose. We’re simple people, frail human beings and it’s too difficult for most of us to sustain a paschal overview of our world for very long. Nevertheless, this view is something we should strive for because it’s the only thing that makes sense of the mess in which we live.

resurrection2Perhaps that’s why the Byzantine Church loved the “harrowing of hell” story so much and used it as their resurrection story. Easter Sunday for them was not just about weeping women around an empty tomb — it was the day on which Christ triumphed over evil, defeated death. I look at the icons of Christ hauling Adam and Eve out of the tomb and kicking the instruments of torture into the abyss and I say to myself, wowie!

Now I know where Ita is, and Jeanie Donovan, and the old man who died in the gutter. That is what Easter is about. The hell with the Easter Bunny. There goes my God.

Rescuing God, Easter King,
unbind us now
and set us free.
Kick the thumbscrews
of our greed
right into the abyss,
and haul us up
into your wonderful light.
Alleluia, set us free!
Amazing God, we praise your name.

Reflection Questions

  • Is the comparison of Jesus with Ita Ford and the old man comfortable for you? Why or why not?
  • What are the characteristics of a family or community that truly believes that death is defeated?

* This reflection appeared in Lent 1993: A Mapless Journey, published by Pax Christi USA.

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