Being Easter people

Published April 2, 2015

(This article first appeared in the April 2015 issue of the Anglican Journal.)

April is here and for those fortunate enough to be surrounded by caring family or friends, there is much to celebrate-both sacred and secular.

After Good Friday and Holy Saturday, when devout Christians reflect on the suffering and death of Jesus, comes Easter Sunday, a joyful celebration of the resurrection that begins with a eucharist; it is often capped by a feast, and for the children, an exhilarating hunt for those pastel-painted eggs. On this same weekend, the Jewish community begins its weeklong observance of Passover, which commemorates the liberation of Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.

April brings the splendour of spring, of course. Sweetness fills the air as once again, flowers of every imaginable hue bloom, birds compose a symphony, and days-bathed in glorious, aureate light-arrive, and linger, at last.

These celebrations and the arrival of spring have-since time immemorial- symbolized hope and renewal, a chance to start over. Spring, declared Henry David Thoreau, “is a natural resurrection, an experience in immortality.”

But as important as it is to celebrate the beauty of new life, one must not forget that for some, April will be just like any other month of the year, where each day can be an interminable struggle to simply survive. When one is in desperate need of food and shelter, suffering from depression and isolation, unable to make ends meet, fleeing violence or in excruciating pain from an incurable disease, picture-perfect April can seem like a cruel joke.

Christians often declare, “We are an Easter people.” Now, more than ever, is a time to prove this. Being an Easter people means being harbingers of hope and justice and living out the Lenten call for true discipleship in the world.

Recently, not-for-profit and faith groups launched Dignity for All, a national campaign urging the federal government to legislate an anti-poverty plan to address the plight of 4.8 million Canadians who live in poverty. (See page 1.) One in seven Canadians struggle to make ends meet, and yet there is no national strategy in place to address this unconscionable situation. “There is no excuse for poverty in a society as wealthy as ours,” said Dignity for All in a report. “…The sluggish recovery since the 2008-2009 recession has created further barriers as benefits of economic growth are increasingly concentrated in the hands of just a few.”

Historically, faith groups have been at the forefront of helping to feed the poor and hungry. They continue to provide these services, while acknowledging that these are stopgap measures that do not solve the problem.

With a federal election on the horizon, Dignity for All is urging every political party to make a commitment to develop and implement an anti-poverty plan “with measurable goals and timelines.” It is something to which faith groups-and indeed, all Canadians-should hold them accountable. As faith groups in the U.K. said when urging their own government to address the growing hunger in their midst: “Hope is not an idle force. Hope drives us to act.”

Happy Easter.

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