Proclaiming Resurrection from the Foot of the Cross

by Scott Wright
Director, Columban Center for Advocacy & Outreach

n the readings for Easter Season, Jesus appears to his disciples in the upper room, the wounds in his hands and in his side still fresh.: “Peace be with you!” Jesus tells them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22).

As a broken humanity in need of wholeness, and a wounded earth in need of healing, we believe in the power of the resurrection. Our hope is grounded in the victory of Christ’s resurrection, and during these seven weeks of Easter we celebrate that victory of life over death, reminded also by signs of new life in spring.

What does it mean today to live as a resurrected people in the midst of the world’s crosses?

We live in a world still torn apart by violence and strife, yearning for peace. A world in which the impact of global warming and climate change is felt in every corner of the globe, with extreme droughts and devastating floods, powerful storms and raging wildfires, rising sea levels and disappearing coastlines. What is happening to our common home?

We see on our own border a world in which more people are crossing borders than ever before in history, fleeing hunger and violence in Central America and, increasingly, the impact of climate change as changing weather patterns bring droughts or floods to their family farms. Are we not our brother and sisters’ keeper?

Extractive industries are destroying sacred lands and sacred waters, displacing entire communities, and the divide between rich and poor is growing at an exponential rate. The entire planet has become a commodity, and the most vulnerable people expendable. Are we not one human family?

We do not need to look far around the globe to feel the anguish and uncertainty of those questions. These are real concerns for us today, deep inside our hearts. We wake up every morning to a precious world at risk, and beautiful children whose only ask of us is to create a world in which they can live with joy and hope for the future.

Celebrating Earth Day in a Season of Easter

On this first weekday of the Easter Season, we join with peoples around the world to celebrate Earth Day. On this day, April 22, 2016 the UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change formally went into effect when the United States, China and 120 nations ratified the agreement. The US later withdrew from the agreement in 2016, but many states and cities have declared their intent to abide by the Paris Agreement. One amazing and hopeful sign is the witness of youth across the world, including Greta Thunberg, the Swedish 16-year-old who has galvanized global strikes for the climate, and her recent meeting with Pope Francis in Rome.

Pope Francis reminds us that “everything is interconnected,” as the fate of our planet and the future of our children hang in balance. What we can do today, we ought to do, working in small ways in our local communities, and globally as a human family, to help create that hopeful sustainable future, as a matter of “Intergenerational solidarity.”

Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg meets Pope Francis in Rome. 
Tomás Insua, from Global Catholic Climate Movement, is her interpreter.
Photo by Vatican News.

Easter reminds us that we are called to proclaim resurrection in the midst of the world’s crosses, empowered by the risen Christ to live with generosity, caring for creation and living in solidarity with poor and vulnerable communities. We must be a people with moral imagination and moral courage, who will not settle for walls and division, but who work in the vineyard and “field hospitals” of our world to build bridges and to heal divisions.Pope Francis reminds us that “everything is interconnected,” as the fate of our planet and the future of our children hang in balance. What we can do today, we ought to do, working in small ways in our local communities, and globally as a human family, to help create that hopeful sustainable future, as a matter of “Intergenerational solidarity.”

As so often happens, those who believe in the power of the resurrection are often those who bear the wounds of Christ or stand in solidarity with the crucified of this world. Only from the foot of the cross can we proclaim the power of the resurrection. We must learn from the poor, the migrants, the victims, and work for a world filled with compassion, mercy, and justice. Like Mary Magdalene, who stood at the foot of the cross next to Jesus’ mother, then outside the empty tomb, Jesus appears first to those who share in the pain of this world. He appears to us in our pain and brokenness. And he calls us to bear witness to the power of the resurrection by putting our faith into practice in bold and transforming ways.

The message of Easter is, “Even in the midst of the world’s crosses, there are signs of resurrection.”

Here are just a few examples in which the Missionary Society of St. Columban has played an important part in contributing to the Church’s witness to the power of Christ’s resurrection in a crucified world:

In February, the Catholic diocese of El Paso, Texas and the Hope Border Institute convened an interfaith gathering to proclaim with the prophet Isaiah the good news of people of faith and border communities building bridges, not walls: “See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the wilderness I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers” (Is 43:19). Every day in the El Paso region, more than 700 migrants and their children are welcomed, protected, accompanied and sent on their way to reunite with their families across the United States as they pursue their asylum claims as refugees.

In March, indigenous communities from the Amazon and leaders of the Catholic Church came to Washington DC to prepare for a Synod on the Amazon in Rome in October. They came to offer “signs of hope in the midst of a broken world,” to confront the greed of mining and extractive industries ravaging the continent, “a system that only produces death, exclusion, with no possibilities for the future,” and instead “to promote the defense of life” and to call for ecological conversion: “The Spirit of God blows where it wills and breaks in to transform our world, giving meaning to this moment of Kairos!”

In April, Catholics from every continent and many areas of conflict and war throughout the world came to Rome to a gathering hosted by Pax Christi International and the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. “Our conversations on nonviolence and peace filled our hearts and minds with a consideration of the dignity of each person – young people, women and men, people who are impoverished, citizens and leaders,” said Mons. Bruno Marie Duffé, Secretary of the Vatican office. “Nonviolence and peace call us to a conversion to receive and to give, to gather and to hope.”

Even more than these national, continental and global gatherings, there are signs of resurrection and hope in our daily lives, in the conversion of hearts and the power of relationships to affirm the dignity of those who are living on the margins, welcome those who are excluded, challenge global injustice in systemic ways, and transform the wastelands and deserts of our ravaged lands and polluted waters into living gardens and living waters.

We are called to build bridges, not walls; to care for creation, not destroy it. The power of the resurrection changes everything!

With even greater reason and urgency, the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor reach up to the heavens in this Easter Season and cry out: “Come Holy Spirit, set our hearts on fire, and renew the face of the earth!” May it be so, and may we make of our Easter journey a faithful and lasting witness of solidarity with the poor and care for our common home.