Hope... because He lives


Monday, April 22, 2019

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Last Monday — referred to as Holy Monday on the Christian calendar — witnessed the burning of the historical Notre Dame Cathedral in France. There was grief and consternation as the building burned, especially when the old spire fell into the fire. Gladly, the building was not completely burned and a number of significant relics and memorabilia were saved.

There are various interpretations that have been given to the burning as people tried to make sense of what had happened. There are those who believe that it was judgement on the Roman Catholic Church for the sins of priests who had molested children over the years. Some saw it as a general judgement on the church by a God who is not pleased with his church.

Yet, some saw it for simply what it was — a fire that started in some section of an old building under restoration. I would like to suggest no interpretation beyond this and what the experts are now saying was an electrical short circuit.

But it is the nature of human beings imbued with a brain to assign divine interpretations to important events. Thus, some saw meaning in the building being burnt during Holy Week, the most sacred week in the Christian calendar.

What message can we take from this event? There is no doubt that the building will be restored and millions of dollars have already poured in for this effort. French Emmanuel President Macron has vowed that it will be rebuilt. We may restore the relics of an ancient building, but its historicity has been dented, as much of what it was for the past 850 years has turned to ashes, including the historical spire.

Those interested in history and the Christian faith will continue to be awed by what the building represents. But, in the end, it is just a lumber, concrete and metal structure that holds some religious significance for a portion of humankind.

As I read and heard of reports of money pouring in for the building's restoration I could not help but reflect on the ambivalence that saw the quick response of people to pay for the restoration of an ancient structure while at the same time being oblivious of the suffering of millions of refugees around the world. I could not help but reflect that while we may be preoccupied with a historical structure, or may even shed tears at its demise, not a single tear is shed for those living in abject poverty around the world; that, in a real sense, we suffer an edifice complex in the church and often ignore the human suffering that we see around us.

I do not believe that there is a direct relationship between the burning of the cathedral and Holy Week. But, as we reflect, there is a message to be seen in its demise and the desire to restore it and the significance of the Easter experience.

For Easter is about hope and restoration, it is about the triumph of good over the forces of evil, it is about not accepting defeat as something to be grasped by rising from the ashes of defeat and despondency to a life rejuvenated by the prospects of something better.

Good Friday might have indicated the death of the Son of God, of all being lost, of evil triumphing over good. But at Easter Jesus throws off the apparels of defeat and breaks the stranglehold of death that holds us in its grasp.

This will not make sense to those who do not believe. Neither will it make sense to those who are more preoccupied with the pagan paraphernalia around Easter. The significance of Easter for the Christian lies in the event that is celebrated: that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived among us, died a horrible death on a cross, and three days after — as he had indicated, not predicted, to those who cared to listen and believe him — rose from the dead and now sits in glory.

The message of Easter is that we do not live our lives below the true levels of our capabilities. There are things that come against us daily that may want to defeat us, but we do not have to accept failure as a given. Resurrection means that though we are down today there can be hope of a brighter tomorrow. We may shed tears of despair today, but it is joy that comes in the morning. The Christian believes that he can keep on going, no matter the difficulties he faces, because he is not journeying alone, but with the one who holds the future in the palm of his hands. As the song says. “Because He lives we can face tomorrow.”

A blessed and holy Easter day to you and your family.

Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest and social commentator. Send comments to the Observer or stead6655@aol.com

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