'J. R. R. Tolkien, the Oxford professor who
became famous by inventing the Hobbits in
The Lord of the Kings, once pointed out that
the Gospel story begins and ends on a note
of joy. It begins with the birth of Jesus
under the stars in Bethlehem, a moment of
purest joy, and it ends with his resurrection
in the garden, a moment of triumphal joy.
This all enduring joy of the Gospel contrasts
bitterly with our daily lives.
The game was over. The coach entered a sullen,
utterly quiet locker: "I just want you
guys to know that I am real proud of the
way you played this afternoon," he said.
"Real proud. We didn't win, but we did
prove to a lot of people what we could do.
It was a moral victory."
On the way out that evening, with autumn
sky now dark, the second string tackle turned
to the quarterback and asked, "What's
a moral victory?" The quarterback said,
"It's what a coach tells you when you
lose the game."
Failure. It's that sinking emptiness in the
stomach when you look down the list of grades
on the exam. It's that physician, returning
from the operating room, "Well, we did
everything we possibly could." It's
packing up and moving from the house to separate
apartments, packing last the book of wedding
pictures that won't be viewed again because
they're too painful.
One way of tackling - fruitlessly - failure
is cheap rationalization: It was a moral
victory! I remember, as a young priest, entering
the home of a woman whose husband had just
died. She met me at the door with a fierce
look on her face saying, "Father, don't
tell me anything about how 'he's better off
now,' or 'he's in a better place' or any
of that other stuff. He's gone!" She
knew. He will not be with her anymore.
Another way to respond to failure is by shrewdly
shifting responsibility to the some other
person, the modern version of a very old
story: "The woman whom you gave to be
with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and
I ate." Blaming the other is not new.
The only real way to tackle defeat and start
enjoying life is Easter. Easter announces
a real victory to us, who many times fail,
because it announces a love which has killed
death. Christ entered the realm of failure
and emptied it of its power. He faced down
Satan in the depths of hell and loosed his
tight grip on human life. Satan does not
have any more the last laugh! Jesus, and
all who link up his life to Him, have the
The vital truth to remember is that Easter
is not an event yesterday. It is an event
today. Today, Jesus Christ, alive, can transmit
victory to us, the same victory which carried
him out of the tomb. In Him, we can live
otherwise, in Him we can take all our problems
in our stride, we can overcome addictions,
we can build bridges.
In the early church it was forbidden to kneel
for prayer during the fifty days that follow
Easter. The posture of supplication and penitence
seemed to deny the triumph of the resurrection.
You had to pray like a winner for a full
Too many Christians treat Easter perfunctorily.
They retreat so easily to their castles and
raise the bridge over the moot. They are
paralyzed with anxiety and fear by the threatening
circumstances. No! We have been given a courage
that can face lions! It is enough to look
at Saint Paul. His faith in the victory of
God over the powers of sin and death and
his hope in the ultimate victory of God empowered
him to a bold, courageous engagement with
the principalities and powers. It was often
hand to hand combat. And he instructed the
Ephesians to put on the whole armor of God.
They were struggling with the powers of this
present darkness. But it was no time to retreat.
We should go around shouting "We won!
We won!" for fifty days. Or, more truthfully,
"Jesus won! Jesus won! And he's taking
me with him to heaven!" As Saint Paul
says, "Thanks be to God who gives us
the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Over 1400 years ago Chrysostom, the greatest
preacher of the early church and perhaps
of all time preached these words on Easter
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our
Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted
of His flesh.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by
what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
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