Apr 28, 2008, 6:14 AM
The story of Easter is about Jesus who makes the difference and the story about life and hope. It tells particularly about the death and resurrection of Jesus, how he suffered and died and how he rose from the dead. And it tells us how the despair and disappointment of Jesus’ friends and followers turned from confusion and doubt into joy, courage and hope when they met him face to face after his resurrection. The stories of Easter are stories about how the resurrection of Jesus transformed the lives of his followers, ordinary disciples with real lives who followed an extraordinary Jesus and accomplished extraordinary things.
The story in John’s Gospel chapter 20 verses 1-20 is the story of the risen Christ who invites us to go beyond our questions to believing in new life. The first Christians were surprised by what took place that Easter Day but their amazement turned to joy as they recognized the risen Christ. It got the disciples talking including Mary and Peter --- about the unique event of Jesus’ death and of what happened to the dead body of Jesus, about the new life and hope. This Easter Christians will be talking, telling the same story again about Jesus’ death and resurrection. They will be talking about new possibilities and the hope of their achievement. The story will further remind us that God has done something in Jesus that makes a difference and brings new meaning and hope to all.
This Easter, I want to highlight the role of women in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. We also celebrate the role that women have played in shaping faith and the character of being a Christian -- often in the face of racial and gender discrimination. For example, Mary Magdalene was one of the first to see the risen Christ: she is the first evangelist. She went and told the story. We see her as a courageous and believing woman who led the way in proclaiming the good news of the resurrection. Women have always shared the good news of Jesus Christ. Women in the Gospels have served with Jesus. From the beginning they were involved in building faith and bringing social change. So many women have encouraged their communities and enriched the spiritual life of those around them. During Easter, we pay tribute to the contributions of past generations as we continue to talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus. Today, we stand on the shoulders of both men and women who worked hard to bring education and health to the disadvantaged, all over the world. Good education and good health are the foundation of hope for a happy future and for the nation.
As we celebrate this Easter, we remember that faith did not come easily to the disciples. Faith is a journey that is never completed. The resurrection of Jesus was the beginning of new life and hope. The power of the resurrection of Jesus was the beginning of change to our lives. It can change the way we think about others and ourselves. It can change the way we think about our future and human living: we can reach our goals for a better life, for ourselves and for our communities. It can change the way we treat other people: Everybody is created in the image of God. God loves everybody. Jesus died and rose for everyone and God is inviting everyone to be part of the story and part of the family
Today we also think about the Millennium Development Goals and here in The Gambia we think about His Excellency The President Sheikh Professor Alhagie Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh and his Government’s Vision 2020 for the development of the nation. Vision 2020 is seeking to bring social, economic and scientific transformation to the whole nation. Already there are some significant accomplishment in reaching the goals particularly in terms of lowering the rates of poverty, and in achieving better access to drinking water and better access to education. There is continued work in progress to achieve all the goals by 2020 and to go beyond these goals, to give all access to more new developments. Let us continue the righteous cause of making The Gambia what it should be -- a Nation that is developed, more just and more equal and peaceful for all people who live here. Of course we must work for the common purpose and good of all, together with all faiths and those with none.
The story of Easter is rooted in God’s love for all human beings. It is the story of Jesus Christ who preached the kingdom of God --- salvation and freedom from death. It is the story of men and women who preached the good news of the resurrection, of people who prayed and men and women who made extraordinary efforts to change the lives of others so that they can have hope and live a better life. During Easter, we celebrate and think about the hope Jesus Christ has contributed to our lives.
Easter is all about Jesus -- He preached God’s Kingdom and salvation; He died and rose again from the dead; He brought new life and hope.
May the Almighty God give us his grace and bless us richly this Easter.
The Most Reverend Hannah Caroline Faal-Heim,
The Presiding Bishop of The Gambia