(Column for Letterkenny Post)
“Today, Ireland begins a week of remembrance, reconciliation and renewal.” So spoke the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the opening of the exhibition at the National Museum commemorating the 1916 Rising.
This key event in Irish history has set the tone for many of the events of the past 90 years. The Proclamation of Independence sets out the goals of the Easter Rising, as freedom, fairness and equality in a new community.
Yet Irish historian, Diarmaid Ferriter, writing in last Monday’s Irish Times comments that, although we have freedom, the aspirations of fairness, equality and a new tolerant community have yet to be realised.
It strikes me that, at the deepest level, these aims can’t really be met by remembering the Easter Rising of 1916. You have to look much further back to the original Easter Rising of 30 AD. What Jesus set out to do at the Cross was to create a new community of people no longer at odds with God and with each other, but reconciled and made new – to use the Taoiseach’s words.
Jesus didn’t just come to live as an example, nor did he come simply to pay the price for the sins of those who would trust him. He came to make new the hearts, minds and attitudes of people, to change us from the inside out. That’s what we need before there can be any real and lasting change in society. We need to be made new inside – the old selfish ways, the anger, the indifference etc. removed, and new qualities of love for God along with love for our neighbour created.
That’s what Jesus came to do – to create a new community of people where there is equality, love, compassion, and acceptance. His resurrection guarantees the truth of what he came to do. He was more than a martyr, he actually has the power to change lives.
While the goals of the 1916 Rising are noble, even if we were to achieve them, what use are they if we enjoy them for only the few short years we live on this earth, and then lose out for eternity. On the other hand, if we remember the rising of the 1st century, and find peace from God and are made new by him, we will be ready to face eternity, and we will also achieve here what the seven signatories of the Proclamation set out to achieve, a new community of fairness, equality and tolerance.