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Whatever happens, we can be at peace


But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

Mark 16:6-7

It’s Easter, and things are going to be fine. What things? Everything. It’s all going to be fine.

I’m not being a Pollyanna. I’m no optimist. Optimists think that things are going to turn out all right, for no particular reason. There’s nothing egregiously wrong with such an attitude, and in fact it beats pessimism by a mile. I once knew someone who was a diehard pessimist, someone who routinely said, “Nothing ever works out.” She didn’t know why, mind you; she just knew that things weren’t ever going to work out. Being around her was exhausting and punishing, and I would have much preferred an optimist. But there’s nothing Christian about either pessimism or optimism. The Christian believes that things are going to be all right because Christ has risen from the dead, not because she has her head in the sand.

We have, as a species, made a good deal of moral progress over the centuries. I think the world is, in many respects, a better place than it was 500 years ago. We are somewhat less willing to be rapacious than we used to be, and somewhat more embarrassed when we are. On the whole, I think humanity has a more lively sense of right and wrong, justice and injustice, than in centuries past.

This is not to say that there is not a considerable body of undeniable evidence to support the position that things are not going to be all right. We’ve just come out of (or will shortly come out of, depending upon how one counts) a century that was surely the bloodiest on record. The rich continue to exploit the poor. Ecological catastrophe looms. Et cetera.

I don’t know where we’re headed, precisely, but I do know that we’re headed for God. There’s a great big list of important questions that I don’t have the answers to: Will those who have power in the world ever learn to give it away, as Jesus gave his power away at the very moment when it could have saved his life? Will Christians finally get the point of Christianity? Will humanity make the kinds of systemic changes necessary to keep our planet alive? These are indeed crucial issues, but there’s also a sense in which the answers to questions like these don’t matter. It’s not a question of evidence or the lack thereof, and so within the same breath I can say, “We’re in trouble” and “Things are going to be fine.” We don’t need probable success as a motive to keep fighting for what is right. We don’t fight injustice because we think we’ll somehow overcome it if we work hard enough. That’s not the point. To the contrary, we fight injustice because injustice is wrong and should not be tolerated. Injustice has already been overcome, and it was God’s doing, not ours.

That’s the good news of Easter: Salvation doesn’t depend upon us. The universe is whirling back to God, and nothing can stop it, not even the most monstrous evil. No one has to win his or her own salvation; humanity’s salvation need not be won or achieved or even worked at. Things are going to be fine, not because we’re in charge and not even because we’re not in charge, but because God is in charge. We have a home with God because God has made a home for us. As the saying goes, God loves us because God is good, not because we are good.

It’s all going to be fine; it’s all going to work out in the end; we can be at peace. Whatever happens, we can be at peace; whatever storms rage around us, we can be at peace. That’s easy to say, not easy to fathom, and hard to live from. It may even defy reason, but it’s true. As the great Julian of Norwich -- a woman who lived with more than her share of heartbreak -- put it: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” She understood the destructive power of sin; she was no Pollyanna. She was, rather, a Christian mystic. She had an unbounded confidence in the redemptive power of God’s love. She understood things in a way that no pessimist ever could.

So there we are. It’s Easter, and Christ has overcome death for us. Things will be fine.

Jesuit Fr. Dirk Dunfee is minister to the Jesuit community at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo.

National Catholic Reporter, April 21, 2000