Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

(Max's sweet duds courtesy of my uncle Patrick who wore them in the 1960s, also that's leftover licorice on his lips)

I love Easter. It has such happy memories for me as a child and now as a parent and with a  better understand of the true meaning of the day I love it even more. I was able to speak at church today on the topic of Easter and I thought a lot about what I knew about today. Here are my thoughts on Easter:

As most of you know, I am a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Let me fill in a few more details that illustrate why exactly I chose to be baptized and where it has taken me. I was baptized Catholic as an infant and we alternated as a family between Catholic masses and Episcopal services. We had bouts of activity but largely I remember only going on the holidays when I had a new dress and patent leather shoes to wear that would click upon the tile floor. I loved Easter because it heralded in Spring, flowers, the sun, green grass. I remember sitting on the hard benches in the Episcopal chapel which had beautiful floor to ceiling stained glass windows, about 6 on each side and the sun would project through them creating a rainbow effect in the entire room. It was beautiful, but it was not was Easter was about. The windows were beautiful but beyond that, I did not actually know much.

Through hymns, the scriptures, a few Sunday school classes, and two years at a private catholic middle school I learned about the Savior’s life, a lot about His death, and briefly about His resurrection. I never really doubted His existence and that He did all that was written about Him, but I definitely didn’t understand it; the magnitude of His life, the importance of His death, the pure joy of His resurrection.

I learned that slowly but it started with a moment that is forever etched in my mind. I was meeting with the missionaries before my baptism and as we sat in a plain room at the Institute, they told me we were going to watch a video. It was a video of Gordon B. Hinckley testifying of the Savior. He stood in front of a gleaming white Christus, and told me that the Savior’s life was an important life. He testified that the Savior really did live a perfect life and completely fulfilled His Father in Heaven’s mission for Him. He finalized His mission on Earth through His triumph over death, resurrecting from the tomb He stood as a glorious and perfect being. I listened and took in the words but it wasn’t until a missionary asked me a simple question, “What do you think about what he just said?” I was used to these questions and I always wanted to answer them sincerely and with depth, so I thought about it and then I felt and recognized the Holy Ghost for the first time, signaling to me the truth of the words that were spoken by a prophet of God. I believe the lesson was intended to teach about the reality of prophets on the Earth today and it certainly taught me that point, but mostly it kick started my testimony of the Savior. For the first time I realized that the Savior’s life meant something, it wasn’t just a story of a really good man. It was a record of the Son of God.

I definitely did not grasp everything immediately, only through continued learning and studying and desiring to know more have I grown in my understanding.  Today I would like to share with you three simple but significant principles that I know concerning the Savior and why they are important for all of us to know.

1. His entire life is an example and lesson.
As we read about the miracles He performed, the parables He told, and the acts he completed I hope that you see them for what they really are. They are constant lessons to us, lessons that teach us about charity, diligence, our strengths, our weaknesses, and our infirmities. We may not bear the physical mark of leprosy or be blind, but when the Savior said, “be thou clean”  to a leper (mark 1), “man, thy sins are forgiven thee”  to a man with palsy (luke 5), and “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; Go in peace, and be whole of thy plague” (mark 5) to the woman with an issue of blood; He was not only healing that person at that time, but promising that He can do the same for us. We have pains of the body and pains of the heart and I have learned that each miracle and each parable is about me. It’s about you too. You are the prodigal son, you are the widow, sometimes you are the disciple who doubted or the one that denied Him three times but mostly you are why He chose to live His life perfectly and complete the Atonement.

2.    He really did suffer all.
Elder Holland spoke in general conference in 2009 about all the Savior went through from being condemned to resurrected, the most significant to me was when he said:

Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.

To know that the Savior knows what I have felt, what I will feel and everything that anyone could possible ever feel is humbling but for him to feel that loneliness means the most to me. Before I truly understood why He lived, I felt that loneliness, I wasn’t completely aware of it but looking back I realize that my sixteen-year old self was lost. I know this because I realize I hadn’t a care in the world, I lived day to day with no real idea of my purpose and no real sense of my future. To not know these things is to be truly lost, to not understand and feel God’s love for you is true loneliness and the Savior experienced even that. To know he suffered is to know He loves you, to know he understands, to know that we are not alone in anything we experience.

3. He really did triumph over death and lives today
This one is harder to explain how I know except that it started with that moment listening to a prophet of God testify of Christ and deciding to exercise my faith and be baptized. As an eighteen year old getting baptized even then I did not fully understand the commitment I was making. I was acting on faith. But when I emerged from the water I felt so much gratitude for the ordinance, as I went to the locker room I knelt down in my wet clothes in only what I can describe as pure and utter joy. I felt that newness of life. I felt such extreme joy I thought I could burst. The past version of myself was buried in that water and I came out a new person. Because I have felt that I know that the Savior’s resurrection was real. If it was not, I could not have felt that triumph. We all have the opportunity to feel that triumph each Sunday was we renew those covenants and because of His resurrection, because the tomb was empty,  ye might bbelieve that Jesus is thecChrist, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have dlife through his ename.” – John 20:31

I know that Jesus Christ really and truly is the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, and the King of Israel. I know that He lived a perfect life, a life that is an example of how I should strive to live. I know that I cannot be perfect without the divine assistance of the Atonement, the ultimate gift the Savior has given to all of us. I know that His Atonement covers my sins, my mistakes and my weaknesses as I come unto Him and seek the mercy of His arms and the grace that He is so willing to give. I know that He knows every pain I have felt and will ever feel and I know that His triumph over death was real and that He lives today. His reality gives me hope and joy through all that I experience.

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