A few paragraphs from James Martin’s remarkable article in this past Sunday’s Wall Street Journal, “The Challenge of Easter”:

3512312531_aabab92e59The Christmas story is largely nonthreatening to nonbelievers: Jesus in the manger, surrounded by Mary and Joseph and the adoring shepherds, is easy to take. As the Gospels of Matthew and Luke recount, there was no little danger involved for Mary and Joseph. But for the most part, it can be accepted as a charming story. Even nonbelievers might appreciate the birth of a great teacher.

By contrast, the Easter story is both appalling and astonishing: the craven betrayal of Jesus by one of his closest followers, the triple denial by his best friend, the gruesome crucifixion and the brutal end to his earthly life. Then, of course, there is the stunning turnaround three days later.

Easter is not as easy to digest as Christmas. It is harder to tame. Anyone can be born, but not everyone can rise from the dead…

If the Gospel writers were intent on getting their stories straight and providing airtight narratives with no inconsistencies, each would have made sure to agree with the others, so as not to give rise to any confusion. Instead, the Gospel writers, composing their accounts at different times and for different communities, simply reported what they had been told. And what they had been told was beyond telling…

What difference does Easter make in the life of the Christian? The message of Easter is, all at once, easy to understand, radical, subversive and life-changing. Easter means that nothing is impossible with God. Moreover, that life triumphs over death. Love triumphs over hatred. Hope triumphs over despair. And that suffering is not the last word. Easter says, above all, that Jesus Christ is Lord.