The media inundates our spirits with bad news. As a people, we can tend to focus on our own or others faults and sins. In our experience of religion and God, the Good News may have somehow turned into the oppressive, life-sapping news in which God is seen as the cold hearted judge who condemns us like criminals each time we sin. By living on a steady diet of what is wrong with the world, others, and ourselves, it is easy to see how we can believe that we are bad news. If the Good News has soured into bad news for us, or if we have missed letting God loose in our lives, then it is time for a change of mind and heart.
Enough of the lie! God wants to revolutionize us through the passion and power of the Good News Easter brings and the Good News is, YOU ARE LOVED! When God created us He found us very good. (Gen. 1:31)! But after Adam and Eve separated themselves from God, we had a hard time believing we were good. We yearned to know our meaning and goodness. As he sought meaning for himself and the Israelites, Moses asked God who he was and God said “I AM.” This incredible statement means that God does not or cannot change. Talk about security in a world that can be pretty insecure. Furthermore, remember that God found us very good when He created us. That means that He always finds us very good if we accept the way He named himself to Moses, i.e. the “I AM“.
Good News!! But who, more exactly, is this God who always finds us good and will always be the same for us? The best definition we can use to describe our God, who is beautiful beyond description, is “God is Love” (1 Jn. 4:16). The “I AM”, who cannot and will not change is love. Love is the only way God can ever be for you, for me, forever. Can the Good News get any better than that? Absolutely not! God has loved us. He loves us NOW. He will love us forever. He cannot not love us. WE ARE LOVED!!
How can we really know that the only way God can relate to us is in the way of love? How can we live in the invincible passion and power of God’s love for us? The answer is found in the Easter story. Jesus came only to love us and regardless of how people rejected and hurt Him, He loved them. Through their disregard and unbelief He continued to love them. We see the strength of His love in His suffering and death. Though He was denied and betrayed by some of His closest friends, He continued on in love for them. He loved people through the hateful and mocking words that they shouted at Him. He loved those who whipped and tortured Him. Christ loved the soldier who pierced His side with the sword and those who drove the nails through His hands and feet. He never wavered in His love towards those who humiliated Him by placing a crown of thorns on His head and making Him carry the cross He would die on.
In them most revealing act of who our God is for us, Jesus loved those who were executing Him. Hanging on the cross, suffering the greatest suffering of being totally rejected, Jesus spoke words of forgiveness to His crucifiers. To the very end He loved all people with His whole heart. Christ chose to love like His Father asked Him to. No amount of hate, rejection, and suffering would dissuade Christ from His mission to show us that WE ARE LOVED!!
Is it possible to imagine a God who is greater than the God revealed to us in Christ? Because Christ chose to love as the Father desired Him to love, the new and everlasting covenant was established through His death and resurrection and will forever be in full force. The covenant is that God cannot and will not back down in His absolute love for us. We come into the life of the covenant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Imagine Jesus rising from the dead and ascending to the Father. The angels and saints, aware that the Son is returning to the Father, rejoice in glory as death has been swallowed up in victory. As Jesus draws closer to the Father, their hearts beat with more and more joy in knowing that they can forever celebrate in the total love they share with one another and all creation. Their love becomes more and more unbounded as they run closer to each other. Finally, they meet for their eternal embrace. The heavens and earth thunder in this is the reunion of all reunions!! From the passion of their embrace, the Holy Spirit explodes to fill the whole creation with the love of God.
The knowledge that WE ARE LOVED floods the whole earth. This is the gift of Easter. Because the Holy Spirit of God’s love has been poured out on all people and all places, the gift of Easter can be unwrapped anytime, anywhere. The gift of Easter gives answer to our quest for meaning. At the deepest level of our being we want to know that we are loved and that we will always be loved. By celebrating the gift of Easter in our lives, we come to know who we are and who we are is WE ARE LOVED!!
Yes, we have a much greater meaning than our education, jobs, status, income, outward appearance, skills, etc. Our first deepest identity, meaning and joy is discovered in knowing that we are freely and forever loved by the Father. Yes, WE ARE LOVED by God and will always be loved by God. From now onwards, God waits for us to unwrap the gift of who we are. Let us personalize the fact that WE ARE LOVED. Just as Christ chose the Father’s love through it all, you have the same personal choice to make for God’s love each second of your life. As you read this, you are challenged to respond to three words: YOU ARE LOVED!!
If you have never opened the gift of Easter that YOU ARE LOVED, it sits before you. The gift is made for the unwrapping and the unwrapping happens when you personally choose to seek the love and friendship of Christ above all other things. If you have begun unwrapping the gift, stay on course. Whether you are with or without the love of Christ in your heart right now; foster unwrapping of the gift that YOU ARE LOVED through seeking Christ in prayer, the sacraments and service. Great joy in living comes from realizing that you will be able to continue unwrapping the gift of God’s love forever.
It is Easter and YOU ARE LOVED!! As you move forward from this day, regardless of where or how you find yourself in the future, know that YOU ARE LOVED!! Any time you see or hear the time, grab hold of the power that Jesus Christ loves you. Make it your constant aim to remember that Jesus Christ is loving you in your hurting and your hoping, in good times and in bad, forever. Because God is awesome and unchanging in His love for you, make His love known to all you meet. You exist to make His love known to the ends of the earth! When someone asks you what time it is say it is ____o’clock and YOU ARE LOVED!!! Tell them about this present you are unwrapping and help them to do the same. Be ready and able to say how God has, is and will love you. Share with everyone you meet the unceasing love of God because they all are, in some way, shape or form, seeking this deepest meaning of their lives.
Continually risk speaking that love into existence in places and hearts that have never known its sweetness. The other week I was leaving the first graders and they all got in line to give me a goodbye hug. Once they gave me their hug, they would run back to the end of the line so they could give me another hug. They could not stop loving me with their hugs. They were so joyful, passionate and unconditional in their love for me. They kept coming with more and more. It reminded me of our God who keeps coming so joyfully, passionately and unconditionally in His love for us. It reminded me of the gift of Easter and that the gift of Easter is for you, for me, for us, forever.
Like the hugs coming from the first graders, throughout your days God keeps coming at you with more and more. If you choose to unwrap the gift of Easter, you will know YOU ARE LOVED! The gift is in your heart, right here and right now. The gift has been given to you to be opened. It is Easter and YOU ARE LOVED!!