Alleluia! The Lord is risen! Our 40 days of Lenten observance ended on Holy Thursday, and after three days of intense prayer and liturgical ritual, we now enter into the prolonged celebration of Eastertide. Liturgically, we will be celebrating this till Pentecost, giving us seven weeks of living the life of the Risen Lord.
One doesn’t need to be astute to observe that between Christmas and Easter, the general sense (and this is not just among Christians) is that there appears to be a greater willingness to celebrate Christmas than Easter. Even the shopping malls have hardly a hint of Easter decorations, and you’d be hard pressed to find streets lit specially for the Easter season in the major cities of the world. I suppose that just looking at the commercial appeal alone, it may not be a good financial investment to spend so much on Easter just comparing on what Christmas can reap into the tills.
But I am not at all interested in the commercial viability of things in this reflection. As a priest, and someone who is placed in charge of nurturing souls, I am far more interested in forming hearts that pattern themselves after the heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And the challenge that many of my brother priests and I experience is that it is far more difficult to help our Catholics see that it really is the Lent-Easter period that gives us the raison d’être of our faith.
The fact is that most of us prefer not to face the hard task of looking at suffering with much depth of honesty. Christmas presents us with a tender infant wrapped in swaddling cloths. How threatening can that be? But the events unfolding from Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the emptiness of Holy Saturday are anything but comforting and tender. We only can face those days of heaviness with a certain degree of purposefulness if we have done our Lenten ‘homework’ well. And what our Lenten observances help us do, is to look into the deeper parts of our lives to see what are the things that we may have been avoiding that prevented us from truly being alive in Christ.
Only when we do that well, with diligence and raw honesty, will going into the depths of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday become truly life-giving to us, enabling us to come out of some of our tombs which had not one, but many stones covering their entrances.
But I am sure that many of us want that Easter Sunday experience of emerging from our empty tombs. But this is hardly possible if we haven’t made much attempts to die to ourselves before the Easter experience. Generally, parishioners coming for Easter Sunday Masses are far more than those who come to journey with the praying community in the Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday liturgies.
Last evening, after all the parishioners have left, when the church was darkened, and the sweet smell of incense was left hanging in the air in the church, I pondered if we could have done better as Church, to help the people become more alive in the life of the Risen Christ. There was a strange mix of Easter joy with the physical tiredness of the last three days of heaviness and busy-ness. Yet, I am sure we could have done more. Will we as Church ever reach that point when we are all truly living that rich aliveness in all aspects of our Christian lives? Where we are all in pursuit of divine justice, givers of unconditional love and forgiveness, lovers of God and mankind who will the good of the other, and who are not afraid to admit of our shortcomings that can only find balm in God’s mercy?
To be sure, living like this means we have reached heaven. But it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try, because that is why Jesus rose from the dead. And I think that because the truth is that a meaningful celebration of Easter will always entail a willingness to face our inner demons and enter our tombs, a meaningful celebration of Easter will always be a great, but necessary challenge.
Once again, blessed Easter to all.