The Easter promise of Resurrection is of much greater importance to humankind than the personal hope of life after death. Its celebration when spring renews the earth is of much deeper significance than the continuity of material life in man and nature.
If the meaning of Easter is linked only to a vague hereafter or to a cyclic resurgence of energy, its dynamic relevance to life here and now is lost in speculation, ritual and emphasis on sense impressions.
Fasting and feasting represent the extremes of human reactions to man's consciousness of mortality. But humanity's unending quest for immortality is one of the distinguishing aspects of great civilizations and of developing human thought.
The pharaohs envisioned an after-life replete with the artifacts of life as they knew it.
Indian and Asian sages sought to escape successive rebirths through extinction of self-centered desires.
Primitive states of society have constructed elaborate variations of a heaven or hell.
Western philosophers and scientists have probed the nature of "being" and "non-being," for the provability of immortality continues to be the ultimate challenge. Even though many may express indifference or profess agnosticism about the continuity of individual life, the question of the survival of mankind in a nuclear age leads to a more profound search for universal salvation - or at least the conditions humankind must create to rise above the threat of extinction.
What has preserved even the hope of salvation from fatal mistakes, from dissolution and death? Not the mythology of ancient civilizations, nor the pros and cons of modern science. Not even the creeds of religious organizations or the panaceas of political, economic or social systems, however idealistic they may be.
Traced to their common source, the highest hopes in all human efforts and institutions focus on an event that transcends history, physical science and human planning.
The Resurrection stands as the greatest event in the history of the world - not simply as the "greatest" but, in fact, the only event that includes the expectation, the example, the explanation, the way and the proof of immortality.
Even to those who disbelieve it, who doubt it, who may never have heard about it, the Resurrection is a promise awaiting only their own arising from the tombs of false belief.
The Resurrection cannot be "proved" except in the degree that we begin to pattern our living on the life of Jesus Christ and are willing to commit ourselves to the denial of all that Jesus denied: the temptations of pride, greed, material force, retaliation and even of self-preservation from the murderous intents of envy and hatred.
And those temptations cannot be overcome in a moment or through hypocrisy or martyrdom, but only through growing into the spiritual motivation of the Christ: love for God and humankind.
We join today in wishing all who celebrate the joyous promise and fulfillment of the Resurrection, a happy Easter.