When the dust settles after Easter, many return to their daily routine and leave Christianity aside. For others, Easter has been a time of Easter bunnies, chocolates, bonnets, new clothes and Easter Eggs. With commercialization, many have forgotten what Easter is all about. Whatever the season of Easter means to people, the denouement of Easter is reached and then many forget the meaning of the day.
So what are we to do after the hype of Easter is over? Do we just go about doing the same things that we have been doing up to Easter? Or does the experience of Easter change us and shape our living, or does it at least refresh our standing commitment to our faith?
Jesus's ministry on earth entailed a critique of the Roman occupation and the religious ruling powers, which oppressed and marginalized the poor, the outcast and women. Jesus challenged the unjust systems of his time: the cultural, religious, political systems, which maintained the status quo and legitimated those in power at the expense of the common people.
Jesus went into the temple and overturned the money changers' table (Matthew 21:12) and said that the people had made it into a den of robbers. Jesus praised the widow who gave two coins, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others" (Mark 12:43). Jesus welcomed children, touched lepers, ate with those labeled as sinners and included women among his supporters. Again and again, he wiped away the carefully constructed cultural system that said who was in and who was not.
Today, unjust systems exist which allow the rich to become richer and make the poor only poorer. The season of Easter urges us to remember the poor and the marginalized of our society. The Easter message requires us to get out of our comfort zones and fight for the marginalized, the oppressed and the subordinated.
We should not forget that Jesus was born poor, lived poor and died poor. He was born to a young woman and there were many questions about who his father was. His parents went to Bethlehem for a Roman census, where he was born. Then the family had to flee for safety to Egypt as refugees. He was born in an occupied country to members of the occupied people. Jesus was a marginalized Jew who received a death warrant and escaped as a young baby. Jesus grew up poor and died rejected by his own community, his disciples and the religious and political authorities.
Jesus was an earthly man, connected to his Jewish roots and people. He preached to the Jewish condition of poverty and exploitation. He was looked down upon by many in the established religion. He was also looked down upon by those in political and economic power.
He challenged a corrupted central church arrangement. He challenged the Roman occupation. He drew the masses and upset the status quo. Accused of treason against the state, he was arrested and jailed. He went through two mock trials in one night. At the end he was condemned to die and to be killed. It was a painful and humiliating experience. He was tortured. Walking down the street with the cross to the place of his execution was a mockery. The powers placed him in a borrowed tomb, sealed it with a stone, stationed a guard and declared an end to his life and ministry.
But the story did not end there. God raised Jesus to new life, affirming his message and witness of justice and peace, life and love. Since that first Easter, people have followed Jesus, seeking to live as he lived, to love as he loved.
The Easter message of hope and love needs to prevail and continue long after we celebrate Easter. The message of working for social justice and equality needs to be proclaimed and lived. Long after the colored eggs are eaten, and the Easter bonnets stored away, the message remains that, as followers of Jesus, we are freed to work for liberation and freedom, do justice and seek peace and wholeness in his name.
We look to the lives of Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, Oscar Romero and Rosa Parks who worked for justice and freedom. They lived the Easter message of hope and resisting the ruling cultural, social, political and religious powers, which want to maintain the status quo.
As followers of Jesus, we too are freed to work for those who are marginalized and made voiceless due to racism, sexism, classism and other systems of privilege and disadvantage embedded within our social and political system. We are freed to speak out and work for justice on issues that would otherwise be ignored. We need to remember and pray for Kenneth Bae who is a Korean American missionary imprisoned in North Korea. We need to visit and remember those who unjustly sit in jails and prisons in our own country waiting for their trial and do not have the means to be set free on bail. We need to care for the battered women who seek safety in shelters in our own neighborhoods. We need to feed the homeless who live on our streets and clothe those who do not have enough. How will Jesus measure us? By what we have done to feed him, clothe him and visit him in prison when we meet him in the least of our sisters and brothers.
The Easter message does not end with the resurrection, but continues on as his followers, as we, live with the hope found in the message and life of Jesus. The message that lingers long after Easter is that we are called and invited to follow Jesus. We are freed to live the life of hope. May we do so the day after Easter and every day.