Looking out at the world it sometimes seems that the litany of turmoil and pain just goes on and on: Haiti, New Zealand, Japan, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, Ivory Coast, Israel, Palestine – earthquakes, Tsunamis, political turmoil, civil war, violence, anger, hatred …

The evidence in the daily news suggests that suffering and violence have the final word in human affairs. There appears to be no end to the tragedy and turmoil that circle the world.

Even in our own small lives, it may at times seem that a great deal more goes wrong than goes right. We are familiar with the rough terrain of life.

I do not often have people come into my office, sit down and announce, “My life is so great I would not change a single thing if I could.” Granted, the people who visit in my office may not be an entirely random cross-section sampling of the population. But, I think the people I see are pretty representative of people in general.

Most of us could find a few things about our lives we would be happy to change given a chance.

The crowds who followed Jesus into Jerusalem a week ago, were hoping for change. They were hoping for a messiah who would put things right.

Now it is true Jesus did tidy up a few of the messes in his world. He healed a few sick people, cast out the occasional demon, saved a social situation when the wedding party ran out of wine. But the truth is Jesus mostly left the world in the same sorry state in which he found it when he arrived.

Jesus did not solve world poverty. He did not put an end to violence. He did not empty the hospitals.

So, what did Jesus do?

Well he taught some really wonderful things. He bore witness to the presence of love and goodness and light and truth in his life. He cared for people and he left a bedraggled bunch of followers behind to spread his message.

Is that all? In the face of the tumult of life, is that enough? Why would we bother 2,000 years later with someone who did nothing more than teach some cool stuff, do a little healing, and establish a group of followers who would go on to found a pretty mixed institution we now call church?

What might we want our Messiah to do in the face of all the disasters that beset the world?

Jesus did the one thing that really matters in the face of pain. He gave the world something no earthquake, or Tsunami, no political turmoil, civil unrest, violence, or personal tragedy can ever take away.

After his resurrection, Jesus said to his followers, “remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Jesus gave the world himself. He promised his followers that his presence would be with them in the midst of the hurt that life so often brings.

This is a reality that will accompany you through earthquake and Tsunami. No matter how painful or difficult your circumstances may be, Easter promises that we are never alone. We have not been abandoned.

The challenge is to see through the mess, to penetrate beneath the pain and see a deeper reality.

Mary Magdalene stood outside the tomb of Jesus weeping because his body was missing. She had perhaps hoped to find some comfort by being close to the physical remains of the person in whose presence she had experienced such love and life. Now even that hope had been dashed.

A man approached Mary and asked,

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said,

“Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” (John 20:15)

In her despair, Mary is unable to see the reality that stands before her. She grasps for the one thing that is familiar. She believes that only the physical presence of Jesus can bring any comfort to her broken soul.

But there was something better than a dead body here.

Jesus said to her,

“’Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni’ (which means Teacher).” (John 20:16)

The moment her name was spoken, Mary’s eyes were opened. She was able to see that she had not been left alone. Death had not won in the end. Love had triumphed. The story had not ended with violence and destruction. Life had been raised from the dead.

We are so often like Mary, unable to see through the ordinary events of our days to the luminous reality of the Divine just beneath the surface.

There’s a movie coming to town some of you may have heard of. It’s called “Of Gods and Men.” It tells the true story of seven Trappist monks caught in the terrible violence of the Algerian civil war in the 1990’s. The movie depicts the monks’ agonizing struggle over whether they should remain in harm’s way or flee to safety.

Brother Christophe is the youngest of the seven monks. In the movie he is the one who wrestles the most with what it might mean to stay. Unable to deal with his fear, Br. Christophe feels utterly abandoned by God. He tells Brother Christian,

“I don’t know if it’s true any more. I don’t get it. Why be martyrs? For God? To be heroes? To prove we’re the best?”

But eventually something unlocks in Brother Christophe’s heart and he discovers the reality of God’s presence. In simple words, seated in the dark with a single candle burning, Brother Christophe prays to God saying,

You envelope me, hold me, surround me.
You embrace me.
And I love you.”

That is the Easter message. That is the Gospel.

Easter invites us to open our hearts to another dimension in life. Easter invites us to feel the warmth of the spring sun softening our hearts and enabling us to see that at the centre of all reality resides the power and truth of love. Easter announces that the earthquakes, tsunamis, civil wars, human violence, and injustice are not the final word. There is new life. Through pain comes birth.

Listen to the laughter of the children. Open your heart to the warmth of friendship. Allow the beauty of God’s creation to penetrate your being. Look at the flowers. Listen to the music. There is always another reality. There is always another truth unfolding, even in the midst of the most difficult chaos and suffering.

Through the pain new life is born. Christ is risen. He is risen as the Lord of creation. He is risen in every human heart that opens and softens to the reality of love.

May he be risen today in our hearts as we share in the great Easter proclamation:

Alleluia! Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!