I don’t usually re-post, but I’ve decided for this Easter season, it would be appropriate to continue this as a tradition for the extra followers than a year ago. So, for my new-found friends, this is for you. And for my regular readers, this is a reminder.
There are two “major” celebrations on the church calendar – Christmas and Easter. One we celebrate with joy and festivity. The other we generally celebrate quietly, with a little more reserve and certainly a lot more reverence and solemnity.
The latter, of course, is Easter – actually a compilation of the days that begin on Palm Sunday and end with Christ’s resurrection, encompassing His passion and His reprehensible death along the way.
But to look at the Easter season with sadness, I feel, is missing the whole point. These few days are the foundation of our entire faith. Without the pain, suffering, death – and most important – resurrection, Jesus was just another kind-hearted man with a vision.
Certainly, the agony is worth remembering. In fact, the agony is worth feeling. But it is the resurrection we should focus on … and that should give us reason to celebrate – really celebrate.
When I was growing up – as, probably, most of us can remember – the emphasis of Lent was denial. And being just average kids, we looked forward to Sundays because we could “forget” the denials – candy, ice cream or whatever. It was a “day off.”
Then came Holy Week. The palms were nice, but again, the focus shifted immediately into the passion and for the next few days, Jesus’ suffering was drummed into our heads. Good Friday was a day of quiet, reflecting on Jesus’ death.
Somehow, that was almost the end of the message. Easter Sunday was anti-climactic. We spent so much time dwelling on the death of Jesus, His resurrection almost got lost.
At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Despite the commercialism that has grown, as a faith community we can sense the joy of the season. It is truly a celebration.
What about Easter? Is that same joy present? Is there any joy present?
I don’t think so.
Over the years I’ve theorized about why. Perhaps it is because there is no fixed date. Perhaps it is because we are, generally, still depressed from a long winter.
But perhaps it is also because we reduce the entire Lenten season – particularly Holy Week and Good Friday – to the suffering Jesus. As humans, we don’t like suffering … in ourselves or in others.
As a result, our minds and emotions shut down around Good Friday. It’s just too painful for us to watch this Jesus die this death. It becomes even more painful when we consider He died for us, our sins contributed to the weight of the cross, the sting of the nails, the labored breathing, the disgraceful death.
The focal point of the season should be 36 hours later … Easter, the empty tomb. We should have our eyes on that empty tomb at Easter – just as we have our eyes fixed on the crib at Christmas.
While sharing the Eucharistic meal, we should recognize the Jesus of the empty tomb. While recalling the passion of Jesus, we should be looking to that empty tomb. While reflecting on the crucifixion, we should contemplate its meaning as a necessary step from this world to the empty tomb. As we ponder the mystery of the risen Christ at Vigil, Sunrise or Easter services, we should see the mystery in light of that empty tomb.
A moved rock, nothing but a shroud, an empty tomb. That’s the foundation of our faith. Jesus’ resurrection makes it possible for us to be resurrected. And just as Jesus replaced His spot in the tomb for a place at His Father’s table, so, too, will our tomb be emptied and we will join Father, Son, Spirit and our fellow believers at that same table.
That’s cause for celebration.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Hope is found when we trust and depend on the One who gives it!
This originally was written while I was editor at the Catholic Standard, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, and re-published in my newspaper, Reveille/Between the Lakes. I thought I would share it with this audience as well.
I always liked the passage from The Story of the Von Trapp Family, regarding Easter – and if I posted it on last time you posted this, oops! But wanted to share it with you, just the same –
“Well, times change and so may ideas, but the human heart and human nature remain the same. It is very wise for us to remember that we are made of flesh and blood, and to know just when our bodies should fast and when our hearts should feast. And Easter is such a time.”
(after Solemn High Mass)
“…The grown-ups, who have observed fasting, are full of anticipation of a good feastday meal, and the little ones want to know when the Easter rabbit is going to come.
“In the afternoon,’ says the mother, and smiles. (Then) “The father strolls leisurely behind them in his white shirt sleeves, the Sunday coat around his shoulders; while he listens to the outbursts of joy of his little ones. His sharp eye catches sight of a little red spot at the edge of the wood over there. Oh yes, that’s the blessed palm he put there himself, a week ago; his glance goes slowly all over his little kingdom: the woodland, the meadows, the pastures, the fields, the barns, and the house, his wife and his children – blessings wherever his eye reaches. An although he couldn’t put it into words like city people, so easily and gracefully chattering along where they go and stand, deep down, in his soul he feels “that peace which the world cannot give.”
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Love the parting thought. That is the bedrock.
Thank you. Yes it is!