Easter B – April 5, 2015 – From Fear to Freedom
What a wonderful coincidence that Easter and Passover are celebrated this weekend. Both festivals speak of freedom and liberation.
At every Seder meal one of the younger children at the table asks a traditional question, “Why will this year’s Seder be different from all others?” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, suggests this year Jews need the Seder ritual more than ever.
Jacobs wrote that Jews are feeling disheartened and divided from their faith, their people and their homeland. The Seder is not a time to run away from frightening questions surrounding the Middle East but rather engaging with these issues.
Here a young child in our assembly asks me a similar question. “Father! Why will this Easter Mass be different from all others?”
This is good question. On Passion Sunday I asked what are we afraid of most of all? Last night at the Easter Vigil we heard stories of fear and oppression and of deliverance and freedom. We celebrated the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, our shining light in the night. We welcomed two women into our faith community. Beth Bassinson and Jessica Burns gave witness to the way God works in their lives. This morning we too ponder again how does the mystery of God unfold in our lives and the lives of others?
The stories we tell at Mass are important to us just as the stories Jews tell are consequential to them. NY Times columnist David Brooks wrote, “Storytellers expand the consciousness, waken the sleeping self and give their hearers the words and motifs to use for themselves. Jews tell the story of the Exodus [to] each generation to understand the fears they feel at that moment.”
We Christians tell new testament stories along with old testament ones. They are similar. Jews remember the passover of their ancestors from slavery to freedom. We tell the story of Jesus as our passover who frees us and others from whatever fears we might have, even death.
Rabbi Jacobs recalled for his readers the dry matzah at the Seder reminds them of poverty and oppression; the bitter herbs awaken spiritual empathy for those who are suffering today. He said the ancient story of the Jewish people illuminates the social justice issues of today.
This past Holy Thursday, Betsy Rowe-Manning who pastors this faith community, said the last supper account is not included in the gospel of John. Betsy reminded us that the washing of feet is synonymous with sharing the eucharistic meal. The liturgy we celebrate in here is the same as our social action out there. The sacramental bread and wine on our holy table resonate with the sustenance we share with others in our food pantries, prisons, counseling centers and hospitals.
Why will this Easter liturgy be different from all others? A lot depends on you and me. It starts in here at this Easter liturgy, a rehearsal for what we do out there. When hope does not seem to be a good strategy for dealing with our fears, the virtue of faith can strengthen our resolve. Empathetic acts of charity can free up ourselves and others from whatever holds us back.
The word Easter, many believe, is derived from the Anglo Saxon name Oestre the mythological goddess of Spring and the sunrise. Today, we celebrate rising up from death. The Jews celebrate liberation from oppression. Both of these yearnings require more of us — a daily struggle to replace malice and fear with works of truth and sincerity.