Fear and Peace at Easter
As I read the accounts of the Easter story, two words jump out at me: fear and peace. Let’s reflect on the role of fear and peace in the Resurrection story and in our spiritual life.
The earliest account of the Resurrection is found in Mark’s gospel. In eight short verses, Mark tells the story. As the three women arrive at the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, they discover that the huge stone has already been rolled back. Peering cautiously into the tomb, they see an angel robed in white. They are “utterly amazed.” The angel tells them not to be afraid for Jesus is risen from the dead. Verse 8, scholars tell us, was the original ending of Mark’s gospel. This verse tells us how the women respond to the angel’s news: “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Mark’s gospel originally ends not with three women dancing around and singing alleluias, but with three women running away from an empty tomb, scared out of their wits! And who can blame them? For the totally unexpected has happened. Jesus is risen from the dead. The women’s response to such an earth-shattering event is not a shallow, “How nice!” but a terrified, “My God! Now what?”
Easter reminds us that fear has a rightful place in our spiritual life. We should, in one sense, fear God. Why? Because (in the words of Donald McCullough) God is “wholly other, radically different from anything in creation, terrifying in greatness.” A healthy fear of God means we never reduce God to some sort of “cosmic bellboy.” The difference between God and us is inexpressible. Jesus, of course, spans that chasm. By revealing God’s great love for us, Jesus helps move us to ever greater trust in God. But profound reverence will always be a necessary component in our relationship with God.
The Easter story tells us there is something else we should fear: evil. In fact, Easter is so incredibly wonderful because Good Friday was so incredibly awful. Easter warns us to take evil seriously. It tells us never to underestimate evil’s power. All we have to do is read our headlines and we’ll see ample evidence of evil’s power. The Easter story does not downplay evil. But it promises us that evil does not have the last word. Goodness does. And goodness is brought into the word primarily by selfless loving.
The second Easter word is peace. “Peace be with you,” Jesus says to his terrified disciples after the Resurrection. We who claim to be disciples of Jesus are called to bring peace to others just as Jesus did. In his book Touching the Holy, Robert Wicks tells of seeing two contrasting tombstones in a cemetery. One was the large imposing marker of a deceased general, which listed all his battles and accomplishments. The other was a small stone of a young woman who died at age twenty-one. Her husband’s inscription read: “Everywhere she went, she brought flowers.”
Easter is a good time to remind ourselves that when we die, we do not take with us anything we have earned or accomplished. We take with us only who we have become. We might ask ourselves: Am I becoming more and more a person of peace? Do I bring flowers wherever I go?
My Easter prayer for all of us is this: May our legitimate fears drive us more and more into the arms of our almighty and all-loving God. May we take evil seriously, responding with goodness born of selfless loving. And may we become true Easter people, bringing the flowers of peace wherever we go. Amen.
Another key word for Easter is, of course, the word Alleluia, which means “Praise God!” This song is Kelly Mooney’s spiritual lyrical adaptation of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Any thoughts on Easter? Fear? Peace? The song?
In some ways Easter is almost too wonderful to imagine except that we are celebrating the Jesus we have come to know. Thanks Sr. Melannie!
Happy Easter Sr. Melannie!
Thank you for this great reflection. There are so many wonderful scenes in the Easter Story. I especially love the women at the tomb and all the emotions that went along with that encounter. We are truly an Easter People knowing that Christ’s Resurrection lives within us all. I went to Mass at Our Lady of Peace; a heart-warming experience to visit my childhood Parish!
May Our Risen Lord’s unending Peace and Love be with all of us.
I believe Easter Season is the Holiest of times in our Church year. From Palm Sunday through Easter is so meaningful that reconciliation is uppermost in my mind. Without Jesus Love and His dying on the Cross, and the Resurrection our Faith is incomplete. His passion and death make our lives so complete that our spirit is uplifted on Easter Morning welcoming His Resurrection. Love the Hymn, Hallelujah! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for your continual inspiration….may our God continue to rise in you. Easter blessings…..
Sister Melannie, I Really do appreciate the beautiful music you choose every week. I’ve learned the words to many more songs and Prayers. Thank you so much Sister, Happy Easter!
I hope you had a glorious Easter. I loved your blog and this version of Hallelujah!
Remember we still have 50 days to celebrate…and then, a lifetime!
Peace to you and your loved ones.
Your reflections bring flowers every week to me! I really appreciate the fear aspect of the resurrection. It gives a powerful contrast to the “peace” side of Easter. Your words and the song you choose speak to me in a very meaningful way. Happy Easter! Alleluia!
I so look forward to your Monday postings every week. Thank you for this beautiful reflection and this version of Hallelujah! I hope you had a glorious and blessed Easter, Sister Melannie.
I sincerely hope and pray I always bring flowers of peace wherever I may travel. Thank you for your wonderful insights each week. Happy Easter.
Thank you so much for this Easter inspiration! The song was a wonderful choice! I look forward every Monday to your so thoughtful writings. Easter blessings to you!
Thanks. Sister; This was beautiful. I especially like this song it is definitely a favorite.
Flowers are so intricately beautiful that I am always drawn to marvel at God’s incredible creation when I look at a blossom. What an inspiring way to think about living like Jesus, “Did I spread flowers today?”
Many thanks for that challenge. Happy Easter, Sister Melannie!
Easter Blessings, Sister.
Once again I want to thank all of you who responded to this blog this week. I really appreciate your comments, your insights, your humble sharing, and your wishes! May we extend our Easter joy throughout this Easter season–and beyond! Thanks again! I really enjoy writing this blog! God bless all of you! Sister Melannie
Hi Sr. Melannie,
I am new to your blog, having come to it indirectly via “Give Us This Day.” First, I found your spiritual musings to be beautiful, profound, and true. Love the statement — a bit of a paraphrase here — when we die we take with us what we have become. Thank you. And thank you for including the song. God bless you.
Thank for this beautiful, lovely message…