Easter greetings from the Board at the Church Council for Justice and Corrections
I greet you in this storied season of Easter which, in our hemisphere, is always celebrated in spring as earth is awakening from the dormancy of winter. In the final words the gospels give Jesus to say to his friends, on the night before his death, he pleads with those closest to him to “stay awake.” Can we read that story of his urgency in the garden and think that he is speaking to only to these first followers of staying awake on that night? Is there not a more timeless wisdom in these words? I hear in them an invitation to those who would follow the vision and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth in all times and places to remain awake to what is: to what is real, what is false, what is true, and what is possible.
It is not easy to stay awake. It is not easy to awaken to the world as it really is. It wasn’t easy for those 1st century women to wake into the reality of their loss; to awaken to the terrible truth that their friend and teacher had been executed. In the world of the ancient story, these grieving women rise from sleep and step into the early morning light preoccupied with the obstacles that stand between them and what their grief calls them to do this day at the tomb of their beloved leader.
They arrive at the tomb only to be surprised that the stone requires nothing of them but instead they are interrogated by strangers who want to know the answer to a great paradox: “why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5) Why do you look here for what you have found elsewhere? Why do you look in a tomb for what you have found in the villages, beside a well, at the lakeshore, around the table, on the hillside, even in the courtyard of the temple? Why do you look beyond when you could look within?
Perhaps the voice of this stranger at the grave shook them awake: awake to the truth than had been planted in them, awake to the discovery that the kingdom they hoped Jesus would bring was within them, just as he had said.
Easter is the name of whatever experience in our lives shakes us awake. It may be a wakeup call that comes when illness knocks on our door and we arise to embrace gift of life. Our wakeup call may come in as a shining moment of fragile beauty that allows us to see what really is. We may be shaken awake by the loss of something or someone we love. We may be shaken awake by the miracle of birth. We may be shaken awake by the terrors of cruelty and unfairness. The festival of Easter comes each spring to urge us to stay awake to compassion, justice, equity, forgiveness, and hope. Easter comes each year to say: Blessed are those who awaken, for they shall be lit with deep intention.
We at CCJC invite you to participate with us in the vigil of staying awake: to be a shining light for restorative approaches to justice and corrections. We hope you will join us during National Victim’s Awareness Week on April 21st for our free “Seeing Through the Bars” event in Ottawa. This will be an opportunity to learn more about victim impact programs and cultivating empathy in prisons. You can also support our work by sponsoring John deVries in his Marathon for Healing Justice which will take place in April. More information on these two exciting events can be found on our website (www.ccjc.ca) or by contacting the office at 613-563-1688.
With gratitude for your support and interest in our work, we wish you a most meaningful Easter season.
Nancy Steeves, President
The Church Council on Justice and Corrections