| By Pete Burak

We Are All Easter People

For spring break my senior year of high school, I went to Mexico. Some of you might immediately envision wild beach parties and scenarios unfit for the pages of FAITH magazine. No, I went to the garbage dumps outside Mexico City and a poor, inner-city Catholic parish – which would become one of my favorite places to visit. While the majority of our time was spent serving the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who live in massive piles of junk, we had the privilege of celebrating Easter with the local Catholic community.

Growing up at Christ the King Parish in Ann Arbor, I thought I understood long, prayerful and intense Easter Vigil services, but this was another level! When we finally reached the sign of peace, our group was exhausted, but the parishioners were just getting started. Instead of politely shaking hands with the person next to you, the entire congregation hugged and kissed everyone in the church! My awkward high school self was initially mortified, but then I started smiling, laughing, hugging, kissing and singing along.

Most parishioners were barely better off than those living in the garbage. Remarkably, the people who lived in the dump exuded the same enthusiasm when we celebrated Mass with them later in the week. No question, this is a place of great suffering and hardships, but also of faith and joy.

“We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!” Attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo but popularized by St. John Paul II, this quote helps explain what I experienced in Mexico. In his Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul reminds us, “For the sake of the joy that lay before him, [Jesus] endured the cross.” (12:2) Jesus knew what was coming, and through faith, so do we. The sufferings of this world are nothing compared to the glories that are to come for those who believe in Jesus Christ.

Through his Passion, death and resurrection, the chains of sin and the power of death have been defeated. The gap between God and humanity has been closed, our wounds healed and our destiny moved from punishment to glory. We are joyful because we are hopeful. Our hope is not based on fantasy or “wishing,” but on what God has already done for us through the Easter story. We are all united not because of location, nationality or socioeconomic status but because of our common need for a Savior – and the joy that comes from being saved. We are an Easter people because our story does not end in the grave but in the throne room of heaven. Therefore HAPPY EASTER, Easter people!