I think it’s fair to say that this Easter will be like no other, and I would like to think of that as a good thing – eventually – hopefully.
God has stripped away all the non-essentials: new outfits, haircuts, review of proper behavioral expectations for the kids at church, and “how to stay awake at Mass” for adults.
Making up shallow sins suitable to hide the deeper embarrassing stuff for the annual confession – not needed.
Oh yeah, and the Easter dinner invitation list that your mother told you must include those annoying relatives you hate – not necessary either. You’ll be dining alone (and you might want to work on that hate issue of yours).
You take a deep breath and realize what’s left.
Jesus and you…AWKWARD!
It’s okay. He doesn’t bite. No matter what your third grade teacher told you.
So, how about we take a new look with fresh eyes at the events of this Easter week. A week that revealed humanity at its best and its worst, and what that might mean for us today.
We begin with Palm Sunday. Those crowds were lovin’ on Jesus the Prophet on His way to becoming their anticipated King who would save them at last. Christ was celebrated as the One who would bring His people out of captivity. They were enthralled with Him. The cheering was almost deafening. Sorta like opening day at Busch Stadium. But, remember these were His people and it was all palms and rose petals.
(We’ll tackle Holy Thursday at the end of this discussion).
Then it all went sideways as He went off to Jerusalem to encounter a not-so-supportive crowd. What a different picture, huh? Here He’s among the political elite, the leaders of the temple, who know enough about Him by now to hate Him, but the average guy on the street doesn’t have a clue who He is. And now He is stirring up more anger than a crowd rush for toilet paper on the opening day of Coronavirusmania! So, the chief priests and elders meet to plot against him. They know they have to get Him away from His faithful followers first. “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.” (Matthew 26: 3-5). The rest would be easy.
And how about those disciples who vowed during the height of His ministry to never leave Him? We know James and John made it clear they wanted to have an honored place next to Him when He came into His glory (Mark 10:35-37). Perhaps the rest of them thought they already had that favored position all sewn up. But then they all scattered and ran for cover when He was taken away to be crucified. “This is not what we signed up for!”
In very short order He was convicted and dragged before an angry crowd who screamed for His crucifixion and they probably didn’t even know why. How many do you suppose just got caught up in the moment and didn’t realize until afterwards what they had participated in – the torture and murder of an innocent man they would later discover was PRETTY SPECIAL.
Then at the Cross on Good Friday, we watch horrified as Jesus suffers an unspeakable death. And His mother suffers in silence.
On Holy Saturday the waiting begins as we are called to silently contemplate what has happened. But, we already know that His glorious resurrection is coming and peace on earth will prevail. At least, we used to believe that. But this year that truth seems to have been morphed by fear and the unknown. So, maybe this day will be spent like all the rest these past few weeks trying to numb ourselves to what we imagine is coming: watch TV (which only fuels that fear), take a nap, eat, drink, wash hands – repeat.
Where’s the peace in all that? Normally we only have the capacity to think our hearts are at peace when everything is perfect: our relationships are perfect, our kids are perfect, and the mother-in-law moved away (oops, not nice). But even, or especially, in these times when fear will try to overwhelm you, don’t let that happen! God is ready to prove to you that you are stronger, braver, and more resilient than you ever imagined! (Which will come in handy when your mother-in-law has to move back in with you).
As Alan Cohen tells us in his book, “A Course in Miracles Made Easy”:
“No person, group, situation, or condition has the power to take away your happiness. NO ONE. NO THING. NEVER. The experience of joy is your God-given right. People can try to remove your happiness, but they cannot remove your peace unless you give them that power. If anyone seems to have stolen your peace, it is because you have allowed them into your sacred sanctuary and let them plunder your treasure. For you was peace created, given to you by its Creator, and established as His Own eternal gift. How can you fail, when you but ask for what He wills for you?”
So, there you go. We don’t need to hide or be anxious about the future like the disciples. Have you ever wondered if they sat with regret knowing they did the unthinkable by abandoning Jesus and running away? Aside from Peter and Judas, we don’t know what was going through their heads. Did they have regrets? Did they wish they could have a do-over? I would think they must have! But, that’s the beauty of second chances! After Jesus invited them to a fish fry they were all on fire to serve the God they now knew as unfailing love and mercy, especially Peter the hater, turned lover of Christ, turned coward, turned forgiven, turned martyr for his now unshakable love of Christ. Whew!
I think I read somewhere that at that fish fry Jesus recalled to them the Last Supper, “Hey guys remember the great time we had then?” – since they all seemed to have forgotten. “Remember how I washed your nasty feet?” Then He reiterated His call to them to love one another (John 13:34). “And just so we’re clear…that was not merely a suggestion.” I wonder if any of them choked on their food at that point.
Now, what about us? Here we are, kind of like the disciples, in the midst of what is surely one of the most uncertain times of our lives. And, funny thing, God is still here; still loving and merciful and compassionate. But, where are we? Good question.
How many of us have been running from Him all our lives? Oh sure, we have been going through the motions of being a “Christian” mostly to impress others. But, what have we really done as Christ’s followers? How have we been Christ to others? Today, maybe more than ever, we need to let the light of the Risen Christ shine in and through us for those who are lost and alone, not just in their homes, but in the very depth of their hearts. That is God’s hope and greatest longing. “Look” He says on Easter morning, “I never left you and I never will. So, stop trying to hide from Me. Let’s just sit together and get to know each other. What else do you have to do? You’ve cleaned your house and straightened your sock drawer so many times you’ve lost count. Just sayin’.”
Galway Kinnell said, “Sometimes it’s necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.” I think that’s what God Is trying to do with us, so we can pass it on to others who may have forgotten too. Living into the truth of our own loveliness will allow others to do the same. Just imagine what beauty and joy and peace that would create for the future of this world?!
Archibald MacLeish, in his beautiful sermon on the Book of Job, says, “Only man can prove that man loves God. Man depends on God for all things: God depends on man for one….love is the one thing no one, not even God Himself can command. It is a free gift or it is nothing. And it is most itself, most free, when it is offered in spite of suffering, of injustice, and of death.”
THIS IS OUR TIME. THIS IS OUR CALL TO LOVE! AND WHO KNOWS BUT THAT WE WERE CREATED FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS (Esther 4:14).
AMEN AND HALLAULIAH!
THIS IS GONNA BE EPIC!!
HAVE A BLESSED AND JOYIOUS EASTER EVERYONE!