Isn't it a curious and concerning thing that so many of our Christian
feasts have been overlaid - better, co-opted - by all sorts of customs
that, though nice, have little to do with the essence of those feasts.
Christmas comes first to mind, which for too many folks seems more a
consumer-driven winter wonderland festival than the celebration of our
Savior's birthday. And don't get me started on what popular American
culture has done to the Vigil of the Solemnity of all Saints ... better
known, sadly, as Halloween.
But let's get back to Easter. A lot of folks on Easter will enjoy
Easter egg hunts, chocolate bunnies and maybe some new clothes. Nothing
wrong with that. But how many will give any real thought to the
Resurrection of Christ from the dead ... and to its radical meaning for
Don't misunderstand what I am saying. I am neither grinch nor scrooge
nor spoilsport. I do have to wonder, though, if spiritual writer Alan
Jones is not onto something in his book, "Passion for Pilgrimage," when
"Easter has largely deteriorated into a secular festival celebrating
the coming of spring. At best, it celebrates the cycle of the seasons.
At worst, it provides us with yet another occasion to spend money.
Either way, the "glory" it celebrates can be pretty thin."
Has the glory of Easter gotten "thin?" If so, why? How? Have we
Christians allowed ourselves to get too comfortable with the Gospel
message, treating it as an old, familiar, taken for granted thing, its
truth reduced, its good news flattened, trivialized, no more shock
Could the problem be that too many of us have lost our capacity for
wonder and awe? "The way to faith," Rabbi Abraham Heschel writes, "leads
through acts of wonder and radical amazement ... We must grow in awe to
If the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is not reason for
wonder, for amazement, then what is? Recall how in the early days of the
Church, converts to the faith were so awe-struck by the message of the
Resurrection that they often risked their lives in deciding to be
baptized as Christians.
Whatever the analysis, we Christians can find ourselves anesthetized
to the full impact of what we celebrate at Easter. Some would perhaps
just as soon let it be about spring flowers and Easter egg hunts,
because we really don't want to deal with Easter as the world shaking,
life-changing event that it is! Are we afraid to get too close to a
divine surprise that turns things totally upside down, and calls us to
radical change in how we see reality, in how we live ... and love?
Think about what is going on when people are baptized. The elect are
washed in the waters of new life, plunged into the saving power of the
Lord's death and resurrection, and forever changed at the very core of
their being. They die to the old life and are reborn to the new, in
ritual and in reality. And all thanks to those two Marys who went to
Jesus's tomb and were startled by an angel's message: "I know that you
are seeking Jesus the anointed. He is not here ... He has been raised
just as He said." And they ran to share the good news with the others.
Is this not cause for wonder, for awe, for amazement? Is this not
reason for all of us this Easter to make a new, deep, life-changing
decision for Jesus Christ? When we do, our lives will change. And we
will become witnesses to the good news, like those two Marys, and like
St. Peter in his homily in Acts, who said "You know what has happened
... They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised
on the third day ... [and] He commissioned us to preach to the people
In the same way, the Risen Christ who welcomes us into his embrace
and into the community of his disciples, the Church, will also send us
back out as witnesses to this good news, as evangelizers, on fire with
divine passion to let people know of our joy in Christ, and to make of
this world a civilization of love, a culture of life, as God intends it,
sharing the Good News with the poor, the disheartened, the alienated,
We prepare during Lent to celebrate the great day of the Lord's
Resurrection. It happens in spring, but it is not about spring. That
day, Resurrection Day, is about the majestic power of divine life
breaking in upon a tired and fragmented world, offering us radical
reason for awe and wonder and hope, and reminding us that our world with
all of its wounds is good because it is God's world, and that our
Church is holy because, despite the sin of us, its members, it remains
the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
Hear Pope Francis:
"Christ's resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a
vital power which has permeated the world ... It is an irresistible
force... However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and
spreads. Each day in our world, beauty is born anew... Such is the power
of resurrection, and all who evangelize are instruments of that power."
The Scriptures of the Easter feast evoke the memory, and spark the
imagination, of a personal and cosmic passage from death to life in
Christ. Sin and guilt, timidity and apathy, doubt and mistrust,
bitterness and cynicism too often burden our lives, but they do not need
to have the last word. That last word is Resurrection! It is life! It
is hope! It is Christ! Claim Him for yourself this Easter! He has
already claimed you! And do enjoy the chocolate bunnies, too.