Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
I always feel a little let down by Easter. After a long Lent and the intensity of Holy Week, Easter’s joy often feels a little underwhelming, a bit of a letdown after the hopeful expectation of the penitential season. Easter morning always has just a little too much Lent still lingering.
As I think about Easter experiences in the past, I wonder what it means to celebrate the resurrection. That is, how can we truly experience the risen Christ? Much of our experience of resurrection is metaphorical: we experience rising from the dead when our bodies are healed of long and lingering illnesses or when a period of unemployment comes to a merciful end or even in the semi-mundane waking up of the earth after a long, long winter. These “little risings” take place all the time in our lives, and these, along with our “little passions,” are ways in which our lives are conformed to the life of Christ. But we will always encounter too bigger passions that are not accompanied by a resurrection, at least not in any direct sense. I think here about good friends of ours who lost their son only a few days after his seventh birthday to cancer. While they may mourn a little less as the months and years go on, they will never be able to truly stop mourning because they will never get their son back. For them, the death of their son is a Lent that never really ever gets to Easter. Or I think about friends who have experienced years of infertility with no possibility of reversal. Or with Alzheimers, or MS, or Parkinson’s. These ongoing passions keep us from really experiencing the fullness of meaning of the resurrection.
So in a way, it is appropriate to still feel the pull of Lent as we awake on Easter morning to loud alleluias. It is a reminder that Easter, joyful as it may be, is still a hopeful season, a season in which we look forward to what we only now partially experience. The fatigue and let down of Easter ought to be a vivid reminder that many of our brethren are still suffering, still on the way to Golgotha or still in the tomb. Thus, Easter carries with it a moral imperative to enter into relationships of solidarity with those who simply cannot celebrate Easter as we may be able to, not yet or maybe not ever. Easter’s dulness is a reminder that there are still crosses that still need to be carried, faces covered with blood and sweat that still need to be lovingly wiped clean, and empty tombs that still need to be filled.
With this in mind, I love that our Easter readings include our second reading from Colossians, which is a reading of hope. Paul reminds us that we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God. Paul urges us to look forward to what we cannot yet see: “When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory!” But we aren’t there yet. We will celebrate Easter mass singing “alleluia!” but also with the crucifix before us, an ever-present reminder that we haven’t reached the goal yet. There is still work to be done. And this is what we might reflect on as we hear our first reading. In this reading from Acts, we have Peter’s great sermon, his testimony summarizing salvation history. But what follows this sermon is a commissioning. What Christ has been to us, we must now be to others. This means that as we are sent forth from the empty tomb, we may have to re-journey up to Calvary.