Is there still mercy in Easter? We think of Easter as a time of rejoicing. We cast away the sullen looks and turn now to the joy of the resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead, and the world now rejoices. Mercy often gets left behind in Lent. With the cross comes mercy, and once Jesus rises from the dead, sometimes we stop thinking about mercy and move on.
But Easter is the embodiment of mercy. One of the first things Jesus does when he appears to his disciples is he gives them the Holy Spirit and then says to them “ If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:23)
The forgiveness of sins – the distribution of God’s mercy can only happen after the resurrection. Certainly on the cross, Jesus displayed God’s mercy for all, but without the resurrection, it remains on display – forever enclosed but never released.
Easter allows God’s mercy to break forth. Just as Jesus broke forth from the tomb, so the mercy of God breaks forth into the world and each of our lives. It is the gift of the resurrection.
Easter is not an afterthought to the passion but the completion of it. If Jesus did not rise, then nothing has been accomplished. St. Paul says “if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain, and your faith has been in vain” (1 Cor 15:14)
Thus, Lent leads to Easter, and mercy leads to grace. Indeed, God has shown his great mercy through the death of his son Jesus, but it is through the resurrection that creation is restored and that mercy becomes a factor in our lives. And so the resurrection leads us to gratitude. The gratitude that we have received so much mercy from God in our lives, in so many different ways.
If we focus on just the passion, we are at risk of wallowing in guilt. For we have done many terrible things. But the resurrection shifts from guilt to gratitude – from self-loathing to thanksgiving.
We are always thankful that God shows us his great mercy – yesterday, today and always.