Happy Easter! I anticipate that many of you reading this don’t come to Mass every week but are here because it’s a special day. First, welcome!
Second, I’d like to follow up here on what I wrote last week (Palm Sunday). My theme then was that there is no escape from sin, suffering, and death – no matter how much we distract ourselves. But regular religious practice opens a path – not to escape, or to understand, or anything like that. It is a path to a destination we, in our ordinary language and imagination, can’t grasp or explain – but is no less vital for that fact. Religious traditions are pointers into that unknown, pointers that sages and saints tell us are valuable and worthwhile. But we cannot evaluate them “from the outside”; only by walking the path do we discover the rationale and the value. It may be a mistake, or a bad investment; or it may prove to be of unimaginably great value, the one thing that truly matters. We can only judge its value by experimenting with our own lives. Walking that path is what “faith” is about.
Christian discipleship is just that sort of experiment. Christian faith – coming to its pinnacle in the Easter message – holds out the promise that sin, suffering, and death can be transformed, by God’s mercy and love, into a now-unimaginable sort of new and abundant life. The story of Christ’s resurrection which we celebrate today is not only a story about someone else somewhere else in the past; it is meant to be an invitation to embark on a journey of discovery – discovery whether Christ’s resurrection might be a key to what God has in mind for the entire universe, most notably including me.
This sort of journey of discovery is, of course, a regular fixture of most of the world’s traditional cultures: the scholar Joseph Campbell described it as “The Hero’s Journey” – a theme taken up in our own day by the Canadian psychologist / YouTube sensation Jordan Peterson. In short, we discover the purpose of our lives by leaving the circle of comfortable familiarity and challenging ourselves to accomplish something worthwhile both for ourselves and for the world around us. The journey doesn’t just bring us information; it changes us in a way we couldn’t imagine at the start, but which we find immensely valuable – despite the suffering involved – as we discover how the journey has changed us.
I join a huge number of people far wiser than I who believe that much of our ongoing cultural collapse comes from the abandonment of this heritage. A life of distraction (whether it’s given over to video games or to the accumulation of money, or success, or anything else) is ultimately unsatisfying. The sense of one’s life having no meaning beyond the distractions around us leads to depression and despair, or to self-medication to avoid the restless sense that “there should be more to life.”
The Easter story of Christ’s resurrection says that there certainly is more – more than we can imagine. But the Easter story will remain an abstract story – or even a fairy-tale – unless we do the hard work of the journey. This is the message I’d like you to take home today, whether you come to Mass every week or you can’t remember the last time you came: Being transformed is the one thing that matters, and weekly Mass is both reminder and spur to that. This is an invitation to the hero’s journey – coming not from me, but from the exemplar: The Risen Christ Himself. Have a blessed Easter. Until next week, peace.