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Easter Sunday: The audacity of hope

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Lent, known as Quadragesima (Fortieth), is the period of forty days preceding Easter (excluding Sundays)

We celebrate today as Easter Sunday. For Christians the world over, the weekend marks the conclusion of the holy season of Lent, which started on Ash Wednesday and it celebrates the central mystery that defines the Christian faith – the suffering, death, and resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ the Son of God. It is from the miraculous event of the Resurrection of Christ that Christianity has its origin and draws its inspiration. Christians of all denominations are convinced that without the fulfillment of the promise Jesus made that he will rise from the dead after three days, Christianity as a religion would have no meaning, no legitimacy.

In his lifetime, Jesus preached the message of sacrificial love, forgiveness, mercy and compassion, non-violence, the fatherhood of God and brotherhood of all peoples, and all that makes for peace and lasting human fulfillment. He showed his followers that commitment to the welfare of others, especially the needy poor, and the lowly, is the sure way to true happiness. He demonstrated that authentic religion is not synonymous with the ritual elements, but a daily commitment to loving God wholeheartedly, and loving one’s neighbour as oneself.

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Jesus was nonetheless gruesomely executed by those who were determined to maintain the status quo of empty ritual worship, political domination, and economic exclusion, and whose various positions were threatened by his new teaching. The crucified Jesus rose from the dead as he had predicted and a new fellowship immediately formed around the witnesses of this glorious event. For Christians, the Resurrection represents the power of life over death, the triumph of good over evil, the victory of light over darkness, and the conquest of the forces of hatred by the forces of love.

Though Jesus taught many lessons through his parables and miracles, his greatest lessons were those of his own life of humility, service, and self-sacrifice. Easter is, therefore, an occasion for Christians and all men and women of goodwill everywhere to reflect on the paradoxical truths of humanity – namely, that it is in giving away that we truly receive; it is in dying that we are truly born; it is in humility that we are truly exalted. Yes, he taught the lesson with his very life that victory belongs to the meek and humble, not to the arrogant oppressor whose power is only transient and ephemeral.

The death and resurrection of Jesus challenge incumbent and aspiring leaders of all times and places to abandon the path of selfishness and greed, and the inordinate ambition for power at whatever cost, which have often been the bane of many unprogressive and problem-laden societies like Nigeria. With Jesus’ supreme commitment to a life of love, humility, service, and sacrifice, vindicated by the event of the Resurrection, Christians and non-Christians alike are challenged to embrace these higher values that guarantee true fulfillment and lasting peace and overall wellbeing for individuals and societies. Easter challenges the privileged few in our society who are often overwhelmed with the culture of instant gratification and are unwilling to sow the seeds of deferred gratification, to recognize that as they say, “societies grow great when leaders plant trees under whose shades they know they will not sit.”

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Nigerians are celebrating Easter this year under very precarious political and security circumstances, daily inundated as they are with visions and voices of violence and destruction. Though we are not at a conventional war, we nevertheless witness the steady loss of countless lives at the hands of brutal insurgents, reckless bandits, and marauding herdsmen who have taken the country hostage, and are killing, maiming, and raping at will, as the nation’s security infrastructure appears totally overwhelmed, and those whose primary responsibility it is to secure the Nigerian people are more or less comatose. The traumatic effects of this tragic dispensation on direct survivors and secondary victims across the country now constitute a huge national challenge, with little or nothing in place by way of post-trauma psychological healing or financial compensation.

Sadly, the impression today is that Nigerians are on their own, for while the generality of people is watching the unfolding national mega-crisis with fear and consternation, angst and frustration, the leadership fiddles along with mind-boggling ineptitude and a perplexing degree of arrogant posturing. Meanwhile, the hopes of our teaming population of young people are dashed and their aspirations for meaningful existence are brutally terminated midstream.

We need a deliverer like Jesus Christ who lived and preached love, peace, compassion, justice, truth, humility, non-violence, and who died so that his people may find life. For all those in our climes who still believe in the ascendancy of truth over falsehood, in the supremacy of good over evil, and in the ultimate triumph of light over darkness, the example of Jesus now being celebrated at Easter suffices to offer the much-needed hope for a distressed and traumatized people. In our current circumstance, we need leaders after the fashion of Jesus of Nazareth, who lived out such universal virtues and eternal truths that our society urgently needs, namely, love, compassion, service, self-denial, and commitment to the common good.

Part of the challenge of the Christian celebration of Easter is hope. No matter how dismal our circumstances may be, Easter challenges men and women to always hold on to hope. The lessons of history assure us that many societies once plagued by violence and other destructive forces, have now and again experienced transformation and turned tranquil and peaceful. The Nigerian Christian therefore, holding forte for the multitude of hapless, downtrodden, and fear-stricken countrymen and women, can celebrate Easter this year in hope that after protracted midnight of violence and political instability, glorious dawn of emancipation, national integration, peace, and progress beckons. And on this note, The Guardian wishes our Christian readers a very happy Easter!

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