In the Catholic calendar we have come to the Fourth Week of Easter. We are reminded that Easter is not just a day, but a season. We are invited to “celebrate” Easter and Resurrection for 50 days, until Pentecost. Obviously we do this, not in lively, tumultuous parties, singing and dancing, but in quiet reflective ways. (Nothing wrong with lively Resurrection parties, if you are up to it, but I do not hear much about such things!)
To continue celebrating Resurrection may be a challenge, especially in the face of the constant barrage of current events. We continue to hear reports of so much violence and hatred. One wonders where all this comes from. Why do people pick up guns and shoot at people? And there remains news of rather high numbers of cases of the Covid virus, especially here in Michigan where I live.
And yet in the midst of all we experience, we are to remain open to the presence of the Risen Christ. It is important to take a historical perspective. Down through the centuries, Christian people have celebrated Easter in the midst of all sorts of circumstances, happy and tragic. It is for us to look around and be reminded of the life of Christ in all things, such as the things of nature, and especially in the kindness and goodness of our brothers and sisters.
I am writing this on the day after the verdict was handed down in the murder trial in Minnesota. It seemed the whole country was watching. It is another moment in which all of us are invited to examine our attitudes toward all our brothers and sisters. It is a moment, again, of racial awareness.
Catholics have been as racist as anyone else in our history. Years ago some Catholic institutions owned slaves. Some Catholic schools and seminaries did not allow the attendance of African American persons. Some Catholic parishes had segregated seating, relegating Black people to the rear of church or perhaps to the choir loft.
This history does not need to stir guilt in us today, but we don’t need to deny this history. But in the face of current events, we are invited again to examine ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, in the light of Matthew 25. Do we indeed see Christ in all our brothers and sisters in the human race?
We don’t need to deny anything or make excuses. If we find ourselves failing in that sibling love, then we can turn to God for mercy and try to take a better path.
Each year as Easter comes along, it occurs to me that we know quite a bit about dealing with day-to-day problems, sickness, suffering of different kinds. But who among us can relate to Resurrection from our own experience?
And yet that is the high point of our liturgical walk through the Church year, the way we Catholic Christians mark our pilgrim journey. We are now called to celebrate fifty days of Easter Time. Here “celebrate” does not mean jumping for joy or throwing lively parties. Though one could choose to do that! But we celebrate by allowing ourselves to be open to the presence of the Risen Christ.
The key to this, I believe, is in looking at what is in front of us and letting it reveal Christ, reveal new life. On the morning of the Resurrection in the Bible, Mary Magdalene sees Jesus and thinks he is the gardener. Then he speaks her name and the light of recognition goes on. What do we see? Whom do we see?
It is for us the ancient Christian task of recognizing the presence of God hidden in what we see and experience: the person we meet, the grocery clerk, the doctor or nurse, the little child, spring flowers, returning birds. The list could be endless. We gaze at what is ordinary and let it become amazing.
This is the work of poetry and music and all creativity, including cooking a good meal! We allow ourselves to be amazed as we look and look again at the “ordinary” things and people around us. Happy Easter!