Every year ministers, pastors, priests and the like spend time working on a talk for Easter Sunday, which seems like it wouldn’t be a big deal, right? I mean the story is already written, what’s to think about? Well for me, there is plenty to think about.
Throughout my life Easter has evolved from the “events” of 2,000 years ago to something very different today. It has journeyed far from the idea of a bodily resuscitation solely focused on Jesus, and has become a never-ending story of transformation through crucifixion and resurrection – not words we are accustomed to using to describe our day to day lives.
This Easter journey is asking me to let go of what might be comfortable in my life. Often I may not even be able to see where my journey of transformation is going. But that’s what the Easter journey is about – surrendering and being transformed. And honestly, Easter isn’t just one time during the year. Yes, there’s six weeks of Lent and then Holy Week, but that isn’t just Easter. Easter is really all year round because we are always engaged in “crucifixion and resurrection.”
The word “crucifixion” is an old word, the root of which literally means to “fasten to a cross.” And the word “cross” is even older, with Phoenician origins, and figuratively means torture and misery. In many cultures over the millennia, criminals were hung or impaled by a cross. It is the ultimate symbol of cruelty and death.
So what does crucifixion have to do with me in my life today? While I’m not being literally impaled or hung on crossed beams, I do ask myself “What misery have I been fastened to? What cruelty have I then fastened myself to?” Looking at the Easter story in this way has taken me much deeper into the potential to move into forgiveness, for the Pharisees in my life, not unlike Jesus’ story of love and forgiveness.
Yes, just like Jesus, there are those in my life, institutional folks, who live by the letter of the law, who are blinded by their own self-righteousness and are challenged by unconventional wisdom. And regrettably, I have engaged with these Pharisees in such a way that I find myself in a crucifixion experience – fastening myself to misery – someone else’s misery, and have unwittingly made it my own. Lo and behold – I became my own Pharisee.
So it’s time for a resurrection, which literally means to rise again, to “appear.” In other words, make myself visible, give voice to the crucifixion, so that my own “disciples,” the beloveds in my life, can be with me just as I am. Again – this is not a one time event. Each time in my life I reach a place of realizing I have fastened myself to something “torturous” or miserable, it is time to turn and appear again.
This is the never-ending story of creation, of Easter. This is what earth does after natural disasters, after death. It creates new life, it appears again and again.
Most importantly, I need to remember Easter is not a solitary journey, “my” personal transformation, “my” crucifixion, “my” resurrection. I’m not a solitary being. I don’t live a solitary life. I need you, I live with you, I belong to you and with you. I didn’t become fastened to something painful or miserable all by myself, and I need my beloveds to move fully into the resurrection part of the never-ending story.
Many people who are not Catholics may not be familiar with Veronica, who is a woman from the time of Jesus. She’s not in the canonical gospels, but she was written about in other scriptures that aren’t among the Bible writings. She was part of the procession as Jesus was carrying his cross. Most of us know about Simon, he stepped out of the crowd to help Jesus carry his cross.
But Veronica stepped out of the crowd and wiped Jesus’ face. Jesus is carrying his cross, he’s falling, he’s in pain, he’s suffering, and she steps out and simply wipes his face of the sweat. Just like Jesus, we are each unique expressions of the divine, and we each carry a cross, we are each a Veronica.
Who in your life is in the middle of an Easter journey? Are you being Veronica for someone, and how are you wiping their face? Every day we meet people that are in a crucifixion experience, that have become fastened to something torturing their heart or mind and are needing us to help them rise again. We help them resurrect by making space so they might become visible through the power of love and life.
What I know though, is that I can’t do this alone. I need Veronicas in my life. I need Simons in my life. So my two questions for you today are “Who are you being Veronica or Simon for?” and “Who are you allowing to be Simon or Veronica for you?” How often do you let someone into the most vulnerable places inside and allow them to release your bindings or to carry your cross – maybe wipe your face or moisten your lips.
This Easter I invite you to be more conscious, to be more aware of Veronica. And in doing that, you will become a powerful force for humanity. You will step into the never-ending story of creation, of hope, new life and new possibilities because life always finds a way.