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Good Friday and Easter Sunday invite us to respond with good spirit

Wooden crosses on a hillEaster is traditionally a time for renewing our hope. It is consequently a time for taking stock of the things that sap our hope.

How, for example, can we keep pressing for better times when, having rejoiced that the Berlin Wall has been excised, we now see it metastasise in the walls of Israel, Europe and the United States?

Why bother about people who seek protection from persecution or about our natural environment when the small initiatives we take are overrun by a flood tide of brutality and cynicism?

There are many ways of responding to this challenge. We may simply get on with things, without worrying about any larger meaning or lack of it.

We may instead give up on our hopes and commitments, acknowledging that it is all too hard.

We may also deny the intractability of the situation in which we find ourselves, sunnily optimistic that all will be well. Or we can live like Cassandra, daily prophesying doom from the sidelines.

The key to the Easter story lies in the relationship between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Good Friday is heavy and intimidating, full of soldiers in barracks or escorting prisoners, of high officials passing judgment, of horrid sights and sounds of a man being flogged and hammered to a cross, and of dark experiences of betrayal and abandonment.

It ends in darkness come early. There is no escape from Good Friday – it is everybody’s public and personal nightmare.

Easter Sunday is as light as a feather, full of sunlight, rumours arising, angel messages, an immovable stone gently moved, a presence barely noticed, a welcome guest wafting through locked doors, a familiar figure on the beach, a movement of air that lifts despair.

Easter Sunday is not for nailing down. The joy, energy and hope it brings blow where they will.

Although Easter Sunday is so different from Good Friday, it does not cancel it out. The two days are wired together.

Easter Sunday does not flinch from the public brutality and corruption of Good Friday, and the ripping apart of a man’s hopes, promises, friendships and self-respect. All these things took place and are written in stone.

But that is not all that is to be said. Something waits, light as air, which whips and hammers cannot smash, nor can betrayal and hatred crush.

Even in the smashing and unravelling God is present, turning chains to dust and desperation to hope.

On Easter Day the darkness of Good Friday is made translucent and life-bearing. Deadly earnestness yields to laughter.

For many people the Easter story will be more than a story; for many it will not. But the challenge it addresses and the path it commends address us all.

It invites us to recognise our world for what it is, to find a hope that goes beyond the clear evidence of what seems possible, and so to respond with good spirit to whatever comes.

– Andy Hamilton SJ