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Obama Celebrates Resurrection's 'Promise of Redemption'
Patricia Zapor
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Wednesday, April 7, 2010
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President Barack Obama enters the East Room of the White House for an Easter prayer breakfast.
WASHINGTON (CNS)—Speaking of Christ's sacrifice and "the promise of redemption in the resurrection," President Barack Obama welcomed Christian leaders from across the country to an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House April 6.

"I can't tell any of you anything about Easter that you don't already know," he told the group of about 80 people gathered in the East Room. "I can't shed light on centuries of scriptural interpretation or bring any new understandings to those of you who reflect on Easter's meaning each and every year and each and every day.

"But what I can do is tell you what draws me to this holy day and what lesson I take from Christ's sacrifice and what inspires me about the story of the resurrection," he said.

Even after 2,000 years, the events Christians celebrate at Easter are still easy to picture, Obama said: "The young man from Nazareth marched through Jerusalem; object of scorn and derision and abuse and torture by an empire. The agony of crucifixion amid the cries of thieves. The discovery, just three days later, that would forever alter our world— that the Son of Man was not to be found in his tomb and that Jesus Christ had risen."

He said that of all the stories of the Gospels, one that particularly speaks to him in the Easter season is of Christ hanging on the cross, "enduring the final seconds of his passion. He summoned what remained of his strength to utter a few last words before he breathed his last breath. 'Father,' he said, 'into your hands I commit my spirit.'"

"These words were spoken by our Lord and Savior, but they can just as truly be spoken by every one of us here today," Obama continued. "Their meaning can just as truly be lived out by all of God's children. We are awed by the grace he showed even to those who would have killed him. We are thankful for the sacrifice he gave for the sins of humanity. And we glory in the promise of redemption in the Resurrection."

Obama spoke to a group that included Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Vatican nuncio to the United States; Catholic Charities USA president Father Larry Snyder; Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association; and Arturo Chavez, president of the Mexican American Catholic College.

Also in attendance were Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios; the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, president of the National Council of Churches; the Rev. Julius Scruggs, president of the National Baptist Convention of America; Joel Osteen, televangelist and pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston; the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners; and the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of Houston megachurch Windsor Village United Methodist.

Many of the guests, including Father Snyder, Chavez, and the Revs. Chemberlin and Wallis, are members of the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Others came to the breakfast after a private meeting Obama held with leaders of African-American churches.

In addition to two members of his Cabinet, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Obama said the guests included "Christian leaders from all across America, men and women who lead small-town churches and big-city congregations, and major organizations in service of others; folks whose sermons are heard and whose examples are followed by millions all across the country.

"I wanted to join you for a brief moment today to continue the Easter celebration of our risen Savior, and to reflect on the work to which his promise calls all of us," Obama said.

He said that promise "is one of life's great blessings, because, as I am continually learning, we are, each of us, imperfect. Each of us errs— by accident or by design. Each of us falls short of how we ought to live. And selfishness and pride are vices that afflict us all."

"It's not easy to purge these afflictions, to achieve redemption," he said. "But as Christians, we believe that redemption can be delivered— by faith in Jesus Christ. And the possibility of redemption can make straight the crookedness of a character; make whole the incompleteness of a soul. Redemption makes life, however fleeting here on earth, resound with eternal hope."

He asked the participants to "commit our spirit to the pursuit of a life that is true, to act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with the Lord. And when we falter, as we will, let redemption—through commitment and through perseverance and through faith—be our abiding hope and fervent prayer."

Reporters admitted to the breakfast for the president's opening remarks were escorted out as he introduced the Rev. Cynthia Hale, founding pastor of the Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Ga., to deliver an opening prayer.

In his remarks Obama noted he has hosted meals at the White House marking Passover and "iftar," the meal that traditionally ends Muslim fasting during Ramadan. "Today," he said, "I'm particularly blessed to welcome you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, for this Easter breakfast.

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