Easter must be really special. After all, the Church makes such a big deal of it. We have forty days to prepare for it and fifty days to celebrate it. A full one-fourth of the calendar surrounds this singular day. Easter has its own octave, each day of which is observed as a solemnity. And every Sunday of the year is observed as a “little Easter.”
Our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, captured the essence of Easter in these words: “I call you and invite you, wherever you may be, to render homage of veneration to the Risen Christ! Let all the communities of the People of God, from the rising of the sun even to its going down, join together in this worship! Let all men of good will be with us! This is indeed the day that the Lord has made! Christ crucified has risen from the tomb; He has shifted the balance in favor of life.”
Even the world around us conspires to teach the meaning of Easter. The natural world is jumping with signs of life – birds nesting, trees budding and flowers poking their fragile arms through the warming soil. Is it mere coincidence that right after Easter many people will instinctively begin their spring cleaning – bringing new life to their place of residence?
But even with all this testimony, we need to understand the impact of Easter. In other words, is there any connection between the liturgy we celebrate and the life we lead?
Well of course there is. In Easter and with every mystery of the Christian Faith there is an intimate connection between liturgy and life. The Resurrection of Christ, therefore, is much more than a curious relic of a past civilization, and much more than a great religious festival. The Resurrection of Jesus is not for yesterday; it is for today and tomorrow.
When Jesus rose from the dead he made a definitive statement that hope prevails even in the face of suffering and pain; that good is stronger than evil, light stronger than darkness, and life stronger than death. These are lessons that need to be heard in this and every age.
And so, for example, because of the Resurrection of Christ, the Church experiences new life as it joyfully welcomes new members through the power of the sacraments. I can’t help but think of and pray for those several hundred people throughout the Providence Diocese and thousands around the world who are being received into the Catholic Church this year. Congratulations, and thank you for your gift of faith!
The Risen Christ breathes upon us and imparts His Holy Spirit, moving us to forgiveness so that we can tear down the walls of pride and prejudice and be reconciled to alienated relatives, neighbors and friends.
Jesus rises from the dead and gives healing and hope to the ill, the hungry, the homeless and the unemployed. The Risen Christ appears to the homebound and elderly, responding to their earnest appeal, “Stay with us, Lord, it is nearly evening, the day is practically over.”
Jesus, who didn’t belong to this world, walks beside the immigrant who feels frightened and unwelcome in a foreign land and assures them that in His company they need not fear, that He understands their hopes and dreams and prayers.
Easter says to the isolated teenage girl who feels inferior and alone that she is very special, that Jesus lives for her as well as for the class president, the popular athlete, and the attractive cheerleader.
Rising from the dead Jesus gives new courage to the young man trapped in a vicious cycle of gang violence, challenging him to rise above the squalor of his surroundings, rediscover his pride and make a new beginning of his life.
The Risen Christ reaches out to touch the woman who knows the pain and insecurity of a failed marriage and reassures her that despite the many unanswered questions she faces, tomorrow can be better than today.
The Risen Christ emerges from the empty tomb to stand with those who mourn the loss of a husband or wife, parent or child. He gently speaks of resurrection and life and promises that “one sweet day” they will be reunited with their loved ones who have died.
There are so many examples. The point is that Easter, along with its tremendous historical and theological significance, is also intensely personal. For you and me it makes a huge difference in the way we respond to the many challenging episodes of our journey here on earth.
So, congratulations, fellow Christians, and a happy and blessed Easter to you. This is the day the Lord has made, and it is made for you and me! Let us rejoice and be glad!