Along with Christmas, Easter celebrates love. But if Christmas is about reclaiming innocence in order to make a home in our hearts for love, Easter is about faith, which gives us the strength to trust that love has the final word.

Faith is not about beliefs, in the sense of ideas that one might subscribe to; it is about experience and trusting that experience, even when other people or circumstances contradict it. If we have experienced God or Spirit in our lives, that is what we can trust. But it's hard — Jesus' friends had spent a lot of time with him, and had heard him say he must die and be raised on the third day, but when he was killed, they despaired. It seemed that death had claimed him, as it does all that lives. They trusted their eyes more than their experience of Jesus.

Jesus' resurrection, I think, is more about affirming the goodness and holiness of humanity, as redeemed by love, than about a corpse being resuscitated. No one can deny the possibility of life after death, because none of us can know, this side of the grave. But Jesus' life certainly was not focused on the hereafter — he was constantly telling anyone who would listen that the reign of God had come near them, that heaven is here, now. The gospel accounts of his post-resurrection appearances provide the authority for the various missions of the disciples. They also assure us that the transformation Spirit intends for us is meant to happen, perhaps, can only happen, while we are in human form.

Becoming human was not a matter of slumming for Jesus, it was the necessary condition for what he wanted to accomplish: the transformation of human consciousness into the mind of God. Of course, Jesus' self-sacrifice only created the potential for us to become like him. It was not a magic act, but an act of empowerment. We still have to want that transformation, and must surrender ourselves to it, bit by hard-won bit, through grace.

Each day, we have to trust that Spirit is working in us and through us, in ways we can neither see nor imagine, using us to bless the life around us, with our cooperation, and at the same time changing us into its own likeness. As we love, we learn that loving has a cost, not only because whatever we love dies, but also because we become vulnerable through love, and being hurt is inevitable. But love also transforms us, takes us out of our small selves and shows us what really matters.

Christians can take heart because Jesus experienced both the intimacy and the pain of love. He understood love's cost and chose to love anyway, setting an example for us who follow.

Love — love beyond the ego — is what changes us into the likeness of God. Or put another way, it enables us to realize that we are already partakers in God, drops of water in the vast ocean of Spirit. I am my sister's keeper because she and I are one.

As the poet Naomi Shihab Nye says in her poem, "Kindness,"

"Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

"Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, …."

Happy Easter.