In 1972, Trina Paulus published a simple but profound book entitled
Hope for the Flowers. The theme as Trina puts it is “to the ‘more’ of
life – the real revolution.”
It is the story of two caterpillars, Stripe and Yellow, who are
searching for real meaning in life. “There must be more to life than
just eating and getting bigger,” they think. In their search they see
caterpillars crawling towards a column. And when they get nearer, they
notice the column was nothing but a pillar of squirming, pushing
caterpillars – a caterpillar pillar.
Thinking there must be something there, Stripe and Yellow join the
column, stepping on others, kicking their way in every direction – just
pushing upwards like everyone else. What is on top they don’t know
except that every now and then they see someone being pushed off the
top of the column. Finally, Yellow gets fed up with all this
struggling, pushing, and stepping on others and starts working her way
down the pile. As she wanders through the fields she discovers from a
butterfly that there is a butterfly within her. And without butterflies
there would be no flowers.
But she has to go through a process of changing into a butterfly.
Overcoming her fears, she completes the process and becomes a
butterfly. When she flies into the air, she sees piles of caterpillars
fighting their way to get to the top only to be pushed off and plunge
down. She searches for her friend Stripe and convinces him that she was
the Yellow he knew.
Finally, Stripe works his way down to follow what Yellow did. And he,
too, emerges as a beautiful butterfly. And they live happily ever
The Easter story is something like that. Christ went through his
passion and death to bring us new life. And he shows us the way to the
greater meaning of life.
The Easter proclamation is “Christ is risen.” Truly Christ is risen!
But what does it mean? On the surface it sounds simple enough: this man
from Nazareth, who had ideas is now alive and moving around meeting
with his friends.
The Easter stories are strange enough, but preaching “Christ risen!” is
the strangest turn of all. Nothing is easier to understand than the
fact that the message of a great man lives after him. But Paul, the
Apostles, the Christian Church, do not so much preach the message of
Jesus. They preach Jesus, the One who is Risen. We tend to think that
the Church passes on truths, the message delivered by Jesus in his
life. But Jesus does not say, “I am bringing God’s truth.” He says “I
am the Truth. I am the Way, and the Life.”
The prophets of the Hebrew Bible proclaim truths, they told us about
the will of God. But Jesus to the Christians is “greater than a
prophet.” Jesus is not God’s messenger, Jesus does not just deliver
God’s truth, Jesus is God’s truth. More than a prophet, Jesus is
Immanuel, God-with-us, as we proclaim at Christmas.
If Jesus were just a prophet, a messenger of God’s truth, then the
Apostles and the Church could easily claim that the message outlives
the messenger, the truth does not depend on the one who brings it.
Jesus would be immortal in his message. But Christians claim something
much more radical, much more extraordinary: the messenger lives on -
Christos anesti (Christ is Risen). The truth passed on is Jesus, the
Christ, the Risen One. This is clearly expressed by Catholic tradition
in the Eucharist. We, Catholics do not look on the Eucharist as just a
reminder of Jesus’ message, or a symbol of Jesus. We say that it is the
“real presence” of Jesus. The Church itself is not a school of wisdom.
It is the “Mystical Body of Christ.”
The human meaning of “Christ is risen” involves our deepest need to
have a presence for our lives, a presence as full as my life, a life
companion of life.
So, today we do not preach the message of Jesus as a prophet of
profound truths, we preach Jesus as Christ risen. Jesus is the real
presence, the life, which stands alongside our lives “as it was then,
is now, and ever shall be.” Christ is risen. Truly, Christ is risen!