I love the liturgical year. When the winter gets cold, the Church lights up the dark days by giving us Christmas — and then when the cold gets unbearable, helps us offer it up with Lent.
Then comes Spring, and the Church turns all of April’s showers and May’s flowers into symbols of Christ’s resurrection with the 50 days of Easter.
I have to admit that, for most of us, while the Season of Lent looms large, the longer Easter Season passes mostly unnoticed. But you can change that. If Lent was spent working on your personal prayer, spend Easter working on the life of your family or parish. Here’s a quick guide to the Easter season.
April 4: Easter Sunday 1, Jesus Rises
Lent’s readings began with Jesus alone in the desert and ended with him alone again, in the Garden of Gethsemane. But notice the shift in the Easter Season: Jesus appears to a group of women, then to groups of his apostles. We begin hearing the Acts of the Apostles as the young Church starts to form and act.
It is time to shift the gaze from the mirror to the world; from your soul to your family and neighbors — starting with an egg hunt.
April 11: Easter Sunday II, Divine Mercy Sunday
Easter lasts eight days, and on the last day we hear the story of the institution of confession. St. John Paul II “rebranded” this Sunday as Divine Mercy, which is entirely appropriate.
This is the day for the parishwide chaplet of Divine Mercy, and maybe a day to start a new family chaplet tradition.
April 18: Third Sunday of Easter, Emmaus Sunday
On this Easter Sunday, we meet the disciples who fled Jerusalem, having decided that the events of Holy Week were a reason to flee. But Jesus appeared to them on the road and then ate with them. In this year’s cycle of readings, the Gospel shows them as they return, and meet Jesus again.
Early in our marriage, a priest introduced us to the idea of “Emmaus hikes” on this Sunday — or a time to go fishing or eat around a “charcoal fire” on the years when the Fishing Trip Gospel is said instead.
April 25: Good Shepherd Sunday
Some parishes celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Easter as Vocations Day. Our parish has Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, so it is a day to celebrate that.
This is a good day to deliver thank-you notes to priests and religious, and then to go exploring in a lake or petting zoo, and marvel that Jesus is the kind of shepherd who “lays down his life” for mere “sheep.”
May 2: Vine and Branches Sunday
This is the Fifth Sunday of Easter, when the Gospel describes how, on the night before he died, Jesus compared himself to a vine and us to its branches. This is an analogy that children seem to grasp even better than adults, since they spend more time marveling at nature than we do.
This is a great time to plant a garden — if you live where another frost is unlikely.
May 9: God Is Love Sunday
The Sixth Sunday of Easter is when Jesus in the Gospel commands us to love, saying, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” and tells us he calls us friends, not slaves. In the First Reading from Acts, the whole household of Cornelius is baptized. In the Second Reading, John says “God is love.”
This is a great day to invite someone along to Mass — the core of our faith, as a way of love, is on full display.
May 16: Ascension Sunday (or Sunday after the Ascension)
This is where Jesus disappears into the clouds, often depicted on a mountaintop, after telling us to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”
Seeing the whole world from above it all gave the apostles some perspective on this day. It’s a great day to hike to an overlook and contemplate how Jesus wants to meet everyone in the world.
May 23: Pentecost Sunday
This is the last day of the Easter Season, when God lifts the communications barriers from his people who speak different languages, and we pray in the Psalm, “Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.”
This is the end of the Easter Season, and the start of summer — another season the Church has rebranded for you, starting with a Corpus Christi procession if you’re lucky, and ending with three celebrations of Our Lady: the Assumption, Coronation and Nativity.
What does it mean to “lay down your life” as a family man?