The world was shocked and saddened by the Easter Sunday bombing of three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka which killed over 250 people, and we continue to pray for the country, for those affected, and for peace in our world. However, we remember the words of our Holy Father Pope Francis in his Easter Vigil homily as he urged the world not to despair or give in to discouragement, but now to seek the Risen, rather than the crucified, Christ: “We hear once more the insistent question of Easter: Why do you seek the living among the dead? The Lord is not to be found in resignation. He is risen; he is not there. Don’t seek him where you will never find him: he is not the God of the dead but of the living (cf. Mk 22:32). Do not bury hope!” He is urging us to seek the things that are above rather than here below; not to focus on the transient, passing situations and events of this life, but to look up and believe! Even in our doubt and sadness, we have hope.
Feasting, Not Fasting
While many have moved on from Easter and are looking forward to the next holiday, we as Catholics continue our celebration. Jesus has risen! We believe and our lives are transformed forever, so we certainly have reason to celebrate! “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (Jn 20:29) For fifty days until the feast of Pentecost we rejoice and enjoy the glory of his Resurrection. While the rest of the world slips back into the monotony and routine of daily life, we should continue to commemorate and feast during this most joyful time. It is a time of light and joy, as the liturgical color of the season, white, conveys. Christ, the Light of the World is symbolized throughout the season by the daily lighting of the Paschal candle. Our churches usually remain decorated with symbols and reminders that we remain in the Easter season for the duration of the fifty days.
“It is the Lord.”
The gospels tell us that initially the disciples doubted the Resurrection, even after Jesus appeared to them and showed them the wounds in his hands and feet. “In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering.” (Lk 24:41) However, as he continued to reveal himself to them and to assuage their doubt, they began to believe: “Their faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus.” (CCC 644) When they finally see and touch him and realize the reality of the Resurrection, they are filled with joy and hope and the Holy Spirit. At his appearance on the shore at the Sea of Tiberias in John’s gospel, Peter jumps into the sea in his joy and excitement when John announces that it is the Lord. Although we do not see with our eyes or touch with our hands, we also can experience the Risen Christ and share in Peter’s joy this Easter season through faith. Receiving and adoring the Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ will strengthen our belief and hope in a supernatural way. He touches and transforms our hearts through this holy Sacrament when we approach him with trust and love. Like Thomas, we say “show me and I will believe.” He says to us, “believe and I will show you.”
This joyful season of Easter is an ideal time to renew and expand our faith and relationship with the Risen Christ. Pope Francis urges us to reaffirm and reestablish our love for and contact with the person of Christ: “To return to a lively love of the Lord is essential. Otherwise, ours is a “museum” faith, not an Easter faith. Jesus is not a personage from the past; he is a person living today. We do not know him from history books; we encounter him in life.” What are some ways we can encounter and celebrate the Risen Christ more fully and authentically this Easter season?
- Prayer and the Sacraments – Spending time with the Lord in personal and communal prayer and in the reception of the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, is the principal way to deepen our friendship with him and increase our knowledge of him. Spiritual reading is essential; however, in prayer we are enlightened, inspired, and transformed through our contact with Jesus, who loves us and desires to communicate himself to us. As he revealed himself repeatedly to his disciples in the days following his Resurrection, he reveals himself to us if we open our hearts to him. If we believe that he is truly risen, alive, and active in our lives, then we should resolve to get to know him better through prayer and worship.
- Celebration – Having completed the forty days of Lenten fasting and penance, we make our lives a celebration of the Resurrection. Prepare special meals or treats for your family to celebrate the season. Enjoy the beauty of nature with the sprouting green, budding flowers, and warm springtime weather. God has gifted us with a lovely season to coincide with this Easter period so that we can experience and enjoy his goodness and love.
- Spreading joy to others – Acts of kindness are always in order but are most appropriate during this season of joy and love. Building up our church communities through increased involvement can help spread the message of the Resurrection to others and advance the kingdom of God. We, who experience the love and mercy of the Lord through the treasures of the Church, must in turn hand on the message of the Risen Christ to others through our words and actions.
Like Little Children
Equally as important, we should strive for a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness to God for the great gift of the Easter season. Many of us have childhood memories of Easter baskets, Easter egg hunts, and candy, all of which inspired a sense of wonder and joy. We can recall this childlike spirit during Easter and regain the innocent happiness we felt at that time. We remember that Jesus himself instructed his disciples to remain childlike: “He called a child over, placed it in their midst and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:2-4) Let us feast, then, and enjoy this beautiful season with the joyful assurance that he is truly risen and the hope that we will be with him one day in eternity.