Every year for Lent, my parish distributes a daily reflection booklet that begins with a “plan your Lent” section. We are encouraged to spend some time with God discerning which Lenten disciplines will help us grow closer to God. Over the course of the forty days, there are reminders to check back on our “plan” to see if we are on track or if the plan needs to be tweaked.
That booklet is followed by an Easter version, with daily reflections for the fifty days of the Easter season. But there is no “plan” involved.
I recently read an article that suggested we Catholics are very good at Lent—the whole world can see our ashes to start the season and we share openly what we are giving up, etc.
But how are we at celebrating Easter? Can the world see that something has happened which makes us incredibly joyful and celebratory? Are we different because of Easter?
For most of my twenties, I lived in southern Virginia, a minority Catholic in a sea of Southern Baptists. A woman from work once took me to a revival, where the preacher spent a fair amount of time talking about Catholics. That seemed a bit odd to me because I could not recall ever hearing a Catholic priest talk about Southern Baptists.
This preacher wanted his audience to know that Catholics did not believe in the resurrection and were, therefore, not saved.
Afterward, I asked my companion why the preacher thought Catholics did not believe in the resurrection.
“Crucifixes,” she said.
She explained that having crosses with the body of Christ still on them was proof that Catholics did not believe in the resurrection.
That memory returned to me as I pondered this article about how Catholics celebrate Easter and made me question my own response to the resurrection.
The disciplines of Lent are so clear—prayer, fasting and almsgiving. But what marks the Easter season?
Reflecting on the past two weeks, I can honestly say that I have not been singing Alleluia every day, and I doubt that anyone would say I have been more joyful these past two weeks or that there is any discernible difference in me.
Why is that? And what would need to change to make this time more joyful?
Throughout the Easter season, we hear stories of the early Church community, about how Jesus’ disciples preached boldly and cured the sick. The Acts of the Apostles tells us how these super-excited Christians prayed together and cared for one another, sharing everything they had and being especially mindful of those most vulnerable among them.
Perhaps prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the disciplines of Easter, but instead of being done from a position of penitence, they are carried out in a spirit of freedom, joy and deep gratitude.
The early Christians were dramatically changed by Jesus’ resurrection; they embraced a completely new way of living. I wonder how open I am to a new way of living.