Making Christ’s victory “find-able” in every circumstance
Ready for a tricky question? Here it is: When does Easter Season end?
Perhaps I should save you time and confess up front that it’s not really a tricky question—but it is a trick question. The designers of liturgical calendars can point to the precise date when the Easter Season comes to an end. And that’s fine. But, properly understood, we must say that the Easter Season—that is, the era of creation begun when Christ emerged from the tomb—never ends. Regardless of the time of day or day of the year or any time in between, that moment is defined by the glorious fact that Christ is risen, victorious over sin and death.
To which you might object: “Very well, Father. You’ve offered us some poetry and some verbal sleight-of-hand, but the words change nothing. We’re in the Second Week of the Easter Season, and I’m sick, my heart has been broken, a loved one is dying, and I’m out of work. The only visible change the Easter Season has made for me is I see less purple and more lilies. And once the lilies fade and the priest puts on green vestments, I will still be sick, heartbroken, unemployed, and my beloved will probably be dead.”
That’s not a trivial objection. If Christians are to assert that Easter is the defining event of all creation (and we must do so, or the Gospel is bereft of power), then Christ’s victory must be “find-able” in every circumstance, in every time and place, whether we are crying tears of joy or tears of anguish. We must find a way to express credibly that it is always the Easter Season, even for the grief stricken and the brokenhearted.
The Scriptures show that the risen Christ always speaks peace to his followers. He breathes the Holy Spirit upon them. Anointed by the Holy Spirit, his followers can understand that glory and suffering are inseparable in this life. Then the risen Christ gives his followers the mission of preaching conversion and offering mercy to repentant sinners. (See for example Luke 24:36-48.)
The human need for mercy and healing did not stop with the resurrection of Christ. We still live in a fallen world not yet fully restored to the purposes of God. We still sin; we still betray one another and ourselves; we still fail to give God his due. The difference that Easter makes is that because Christ is risen and the Holy Spirit has been poured out, the remedy for our ills, the remedy for sin, heartache and tragedy is now available to us.
That fact raises an important question: Are we good stewards of the graces of Easter? Do we allow sin and distraction to obscure from our hearts the light of the Paschal candle? Do we drop the graces of Easter so that we can set our hands and minds to the resumption of “business-as-usual”?
If we believed—really believed—that because Christ is risen, we can have hope for the future, the healing of our heart’s wounds, the peace that we long for that the world can neither give nor take away—if we really believed that, what would our lives look like? Well, wouldn’t we be less inclined to self-pity, to excuses, to depression and to despair? Wouldn’t we be more inclined to count our blessings rather than to brooding over what don’t now have? And wouldn’t we be more inclined to charity to our neighbor rather than putting our own preferences first?
My fear is that we are so used to lilies that fade and white vestments that are put away, so used to capitulating to the demands of “ordinary” time that we don’t think to go to our wounded and victorious Lord with our own wounds, and ask for a share in his victory. Seeing that his cross leads to his victory, wouldn’t we turn to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where Calvary is made present again at the altar, and ask for the healing that we need? The victorious Christ is not an absentee landlord! He is with us, and is eager to breathe his Spirit into our broken hearts, tired minds and wounded bodies. Why not ask him to do so?
Seasons come and go, but it is always Easter. All of creation has been re-defined by the resurrection of Christ. At Eastertide, we are reminded that precious gifts needed by us and our neighbor have been offered to us. Let’s ask for those gifts, receive those gifts, and put them to use. Let’s be good stewards of the graces of Easter. Pray today, daily, and especially at Mass for the healing, hope and heart that Christ longs to give us.
When I write next, I will speak of the wise use of time. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.