“Allelulia, He is risen!” – What a joyous phrase. This is the time of year that we celebrate Christ’s victory over death, and our liberation from the wages of sin. For close to two millennia, Christians around the world have celebrated Easter, this holiest of days. While this is indeed an event to be celebrated and cherished, I want to turn back the clock a bit, and shift our focus to the events leading up to the resurrection.
“L’chaim! Chag Sameach!” – Are there any other words that warm our hearts more? This time of year, this week especially, we celebrate our freedom from slavery and oppression, our liberation from those who would keep us as chattel. This week, we celebrate Pesach.
A week before His resurrection, we find Jesus entering into Jerusalem with much pomp and circumstance. Yet, less than a week later the same crowds that were rejoicing and proclaiming Him as their Messiah were instead calling for His Precious Blood to be spilled. Saint Peter goes from claiming that he will follow Him to death, to denying Him three times. Imagine the despair that His followers must have felt. The Messiah, the man that they believed would save them from their Roman oppressors, was now dead. There was nowhere to go, and the glorious future that they had looked forward to was gone, or so they thought.
In the years prior to our liberation, we were a people without religion, without right and wrong. We were enslaved, we were conscripted into labor, we were so expendable that Pharoah murdered our children at will. We knew our father, Abraham, had been promised many blessings, but we had not heard from HaShem for many years.
Luckily for us, the story does not end there and, in fact, continues to this day. However, unlike the Apostles on the first Good Friday, we have hope. Hope is such key aspect of our Biblical faith, ranking among the Three Cardinal Virtues along with faith and charity (love).
In our desperation, we cried out: “SHAVA!”, and HaShem heard us. “SHAVA, SHAVA!”, and HaShem acted. He performed 9 great and terrible signs, and claimed us as his own, yet Pharaoh did not listen. It took HaShem himself, walking amongst the Hebrew and Egyptian people, claiming the lives of the firstborn that had not followed his command to mark the door frames for Pharaoh to relinquish his grasp on our people. Hope was answered, faith restored, and a charitable welcoming of those who would believe ensued.
So often, after a natural disaster, people are left feeling a lot like those remaining after Jesus’s death, hopeless. They can feel enslaved to destruction, and as though HaShem is no longer there. Maybe He can’t see them. These are people who have lost much of their lives, their homes, their livelihoods, their communities, and for some, members of their families. It is important for these people to know that they are not alone, to remind them that they are to have hope and faith in Christ, that HaShem always keeps His promises. We are His people, and He is our G-d. The best way to do that, is to be like Christ to them (Matthew 35:31-46). We can open our arms to them, and welcome them as we march forward, following HaShem through the wilderness. In many ways, this is what we try to do here at YOAM. To remind those who feel hopeless that they are not without hope. While the work we do on our mission trips is both effective and fruit-bearing, we must also remind ourselves that it is not enough. We must strive to not only be Christ-like when we travel for disaster relief, but to be Christ-like at all times to all we encounter. We can teach those who have lost everything to cry “Shava!”; we can show them they will be heard and HaShem will make others favorably disposed to them. Your parents, your friends, the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, your enemies, those who have been unjust towards you. All of them at all times. By doing this, we point to the One who has given us life, the one who has given us a great gift… hope. In HaShem we can find Shalom – a deep and lasting peace, and, sometimes after disaster, that is a miracle all on its own. Because as Saint Paul writes, “Spe salvi facti sumus” – In hope we were saved.
With spes and shalom,
Andrew and Anne