(This op-ed was written by Bishop Caggioano for Hearst Newspapers and appears in papers today throughout Fairfield County)
At first glance at the news and the state of our world, it may seem challenging for any of us to sing the songs of alleluia this Easter morning. As we celebrate the feast of Easter in which Christians believe that the Lord Jesus broke the chains of sin and death, we may struggle in a very particular way to see the signs of such new life in our broken world. Where are the signs of Easter in the midst of so many tragedies and such profound suffering?
Pictured: Bishop Frank Caggiano administers ashes to 5-month-old Paschal Emejeamara and his mother, Maria, during Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral, in Bridgeport on March 2, 2022. Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media
If we reflect upon the larger world, we need look no further than the atrocities and humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Ukraine. Innocent men, women and children are suffering unspeakable torture, fear, suffering and death at the hands of invaders waging an illegal, unjust and criminal war. I need not describe the scenes we have seen in real time since I am certain that they have burned themselves into our memories perhaps for the rest of our lives. So this Easter, we can ask, where are the signs of Easter’s promise of new life among so much pain?
Likewise, we can look closer to home and try to make sense of the rising tide of violence in our communities and streets. To see the recent attacks in a Brooklyn subway station– the same one that I traveled through all the years I attended high school–the scenes of wounded young people, a chaotic stampede and senseless violence and injury perpetrated upon innocent bystanders who were simply going about their ordinary lives is shocking and deeply unsettling. Once again, we can ask, where are the signs of Easter’s promise of new life among so much pain?
My dear friends, if we have the courage to search again within these scenes of pain and suffering, we may begin to see the signs of Easter where we least expected to see them.
For whose spirit does not gain hope and encouragement at the many Ukrainians who are valiantly and courageously fighting to protect and defend their neighbors and friend in their time of greatest need? How can we miss the many acts of courageous, sacrificial love that have been offered to those in need as members of our common human family? While we often cannot in a direct way enter into the struggle for freedom and justice in many parts of the world, our prayers, resources and advocacy can help make a profound difference in rolling back the waves of evil that threaten our sisters and brothers. These, my friends, are the signs of Easter’s victory over sin and death.
So too closer to home, as we reflect upon the courageous acts of assistance given to strangers on a subway, who for those brief moments loved each other as brothers and sisters, or the protection and aid given by first responders to all those fleeing from the random shots of a gunman, here too we can see the signs of Easter’s victory over sin, chaos and death.
We celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death as a twofold invitation offered to all who believe in Him, carry his name as Christians or seek to live a life of good will. Easter invites us to follow in His footsteps to realize our final victory over sin and death in the glory of Heaven. However, it also challenges us to work for the victory over sin in the countless moments of our everyday lives.
We should also find hope in the understanding that Passover and the Muslim celebration of Ramadan have come together during this Holy Week as people around the globe unite in prayer and reverence, while lifting up their hopes, lives and voices to ask God’s protection and favor despite a world of travail and suffering.
While we cannot stop destruction when someone choses to be an agent of sin and death, we can serve as Christ’s hands, eyes, feet and heart in the world, and do what we can, despite the cost, to claim His victory wherever we can. It is in such acts of kindness, mercy, forgiveness, understanding, accompaniment, assistance and peace-making that we show the world that Christ is truly risen, alive in our hearts and leading us forward to share the signs of His Risen life with every person we meet.
Where are the signs of Easter’s promise of new life among so much pain? They are waiting for you and me to show them to the world.