This weekend marks the holiest on the sacred Christian calendar. Although for many of us, it simply represents another long weekend for merrymaking and leisure. Regardless of which side of the religious dimension one sits, and even if this weekend may not resonate as fully, there’s still a lot in the Easter story upon which to pause and reflect.
Devout Christians, of course, pay homage to the sequence of events in which their faith is both founded and infused with spiritual meaning. They celebrate the week in which the man from whom the religion takes its name was killed by the forces of religious orthodoxy and political expedience. His sacrifice by the cruel method of crucifixion and his forgiveness of his persecutors and call for mercy toward them remains a story that has redeemed humanity of its sins since then.
Today, that sacrifice, mercy, forgiveness, the demonstration of love and values transcends the limits of a doctrine. It all points to the reason why Easter is more worthwhile to any other living being, Christian or not. It teaches us to reflect as we respond to the clamour of intolerance, violence, hateful rhetoric, savagery incitements and vengeance.
This should not be a belief unique to Christians. Many of us, whatever our beliefs are, must spend this weekend celebrating life, as we seriously consider the deeper meaning of Easter. We must search for the meaning of the suffering that we are going through as citizens and residents of this beloved country.
All of us will suffer in life in some way, but the important thing is to understand why? Of course, for others, suffering is personal, but no less profound. It may be the death of a friend or family member, a breakup with those that you hold so dear to your heart, loss of employment, delayed salary or concerns about how to put food on the family table. Whatever the case, it is still suffering. To others, it may be health-related, maybe chronic illness, depression, anxiety or simply the constant hum and buzz of modern life, which can be quite overwhelming.
But there can be no such suffering compared to the experience of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of Luke, in the garden of Gesthemane, we find Jesus kneeling and praying to God before his crucifixion. “If it is Your will, take this cup away from me,” Jesus says.
Suffering isn’t something to seek. It is simply something we cannot avoid. And for those without the power or means to change their circumstances, like a sick person at the University Teaching Hospital who has no health insurance or a convicted prisoner in Mukobeko serving an illegal sentence because of the flaws in our judicial system, it is suffering that we have no option, but to embrace as an exercise in spiritual growth.
Growth comes only through an individual’s understanding of his or her own suffering. For some, it will take a lifetime. The love and compassion from those around us is the only nourishment that we can get for suffering with them. When all is said and done, we suffer; we survive; we celebrate; we live together.
And on Easter, we mark the cycle of life and death and life again, knowing that joy and pain are its inevitable shoots. We endure and we rejoice, and we remember once more that we can renew and begin again.
To truly live, it is necessary to suffer. The cross reminds us in this Holy Week that suffering is a crucial part of our human story, but the empty tomb will remind us that death is not the end of the story. God refuses to let suffering and death get the final word. Whether it comes as new life on the other side of suffering in this world or new life on the other side of death, resurrection comes because that’s who God is and that’s what God does.
Even for non-Christians, suffering forces us to confront our faith in the Man upstairs, whatever name we want to give Him. Most of us will simply give up trying to explain the causes for our suffering, not being able to comprehend the ‘why.’ Others would rather blame themselves than think of why the Heavens would allow them to go through their circumstances. The answers lie within ourselves, and can only be found through candid introspection.
In Bemba they say, ubucushi bupela amano. Mwaculeni mwebena Zambia, nomba ilukenu, salapukeni! Wake and arise, Zambia!