The stories we tell ourselves matter. Remember the old adage, “you are what you eat”? Well, an even truer phrase might be, “we are the stories we tell ourselves.” That’s why it’s so important for us to listen to the Scripture readings during this Easter season. These stories tell us who we are. And, if we truly are the stories we tell about ourselves, that means that we are an Easter people, formed by the cross, yes, but never defined by it.
In the liturgical year there are 50 days of Easter and one Good Friday. We tell ourselves the story of the Passion on two days — Passion Sunday and Good Friday — but proclaim the story of Christ’s triumph over death for over seven weeks! That’s because the stories of the resurrection are the stories that have shaped who we are as a people. Without the resurrection, the cross has no enduring meaning. It’s simply another stanza in the endless litany of human suffering and violence. It’s Easter that changes things and it’s Easter that shapes us a people. We are people infused with hope because we are assured that death (or suffering, or violence, or terror, or oppression) will never have the final say.
But I wonder if, as Christians, we fully grasp the radical nature of our Easter claims? Or, do we simply live as people of the cross, bearing the weight of our human condition without fully claiming the inheritance Easter promises us? Is that why our churches are full on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday but half empty on Easter morning? Resurrection faith, Easter faith, is a hard sell. It’s hard to believe what Christ has revealed through his life, death and resurrection. It’s easier for us to believe in our nothingness (that we are dust) than to claim our birthright as sons and daughters of God. It’s easier to identify with the forces that lead to Jesus’ death on the cross. But truly believing in the resurrection, or in the words of the Book of Revelation, that “death will be no more, and mourning and crying and pain will be no more,” that truly requires a leap of faith.
So we need to tell ourselves the stories of the resurrection over and over again. We need to proclaim our gladness and sing our songs and bless God’s name for God’s wondrous works. We need to remember that our focus is on the 50 days of Easter and that our hope outweighs the crosses we bear. Admittedly, that’s not easy. We know suffering all too well and evil provides ample evidence of its existence.
One of my favourite U2 songs is titled, One. Its refrain repeats the phrase, “We get to carry each other, we get to carry each other.” That’s how we keep the faith as Easter people. When we are in a place of suffering, we are not alone. Like the disciples in the Book of Acts, we “strengthen each other’s souls” and encourage each other to “continue in the faith.” We carry each other so that the sum total of our faith as a community outweighs the temptation to let death have the final word. We keep on telling each other the stories of our hope. We get to carry each other.
In this week’s liturgy, the collect pleads, “Almighty ever-living God, constantly accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us.” Allowing the mystery of Christ’s life, death and resurrection to live in us is what defines us as a people. During this Easter season and beyond, may we continue to tell each other the stories of our hope and carry each other when needed. The stories we tell ourselves matter. They tell us who we are.
Rompré is the director of Mission and Ministry at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon.