Easter 2020 ~ Christ IS Risen!
For most of the world this year there are no Easter gatherings to celebrate the joy of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. For Roman Catholic’s what is generally the longest and richest Mass of the liturgical year, the Easter Vigil of Saturday night, will not be shared when, and how it normally would be. There will be no lighting of the Easter fire, the new Paschal Candle, the proclaiming of the Exultet and the rich banquet of readings from Scripture. Baptisms, Confirmations will all be postponed. There will be no celebration of the Eucharistic Presence of our Risen Lord. And likewise the Easter Sunday Masses in beautiful decorated churches will not be. In many way it would seem Lent, 2020 is extended in a peculiar way, for how long, God alone knows.
If our faith is in the ritual, the sacraments even, or in the traditions of church and family we will be deeply disappointed and for many, troubled. For all of us it is a time of questioning, uncertainty and, prayerfully, growth. We share, in many ways an Easter very much like the first Easter, in spirit and opportunity.
The first Easter saw the early Christian followers of Jesus overwhelmed by events they would never have imagined. Their faith, their relationship with Jesus had seemingly been destroyed by the dark virus of sin and death. An infection of hate, doubt and fear was rampant and He who had promised so much was…buried in a tomb. The disciples, in the isolation of their souls struggled to make sense of all that was happening, of what they were supposed to do. And it is in the simple lives and faith of those first Christians we are given the ways to celebrate Easter, celebrate Jesus, perhaps in ways we never have before. For He IS risen!
Walking with the early disciples that first Easter we observe lessons they were unaware of in that troubled time. Much like we are as we press on through our storms and challenges.
We join Mary Magdalene, with other women of loving faith, coming to the sealed tomb with spices to anoint the body of Jesus properly for his death. They come in deep sorrow, fear, and even an even deeper resolve of love for He who had accepted each of them for who they were and freed them to become the women He had created and redeemed them to be. Mary, the others, had no idea how they would open the tomb. They only knew, Jesus had died. He must be tended as He deserved. They come to the tomb. It is open! Then they hear a voice. And the majestic angel of God tells them: “Do not be afraid! I know you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for He has been raised from the dead…” The angel then calls them to look in the empty tomb and go tell Peter and the other disciples.
The women run and tell Peter and the others what they have witnessed. Their joy tangled in cords of fear and uncertainty shrouds their souls where before they had only the dark garments of mourning and despair. Peter with John, the Beloved, run to the tomb! Confused! Frightened! Hopeful! John, the Beloved outruns Peter and gets to the tomb first. In hesitant hope he peeks into the obscure Truth of God. Peter arrives and in his bold uncertainty steps into the tomb and sees…Jesus is gone! Neither men understand.
We know of course the rest of the powerful Gospel accounts of our Risen Lord. The disciples would be on great tides of hope and faith …of fear and doubt. None of this would make sense. But as they continued with their Risen Lord they would come to grow into the Truth of Christ, crucified and Risen from the dead. Their love and faith, with their Risen Lord would be resurrected and they would grow to love Him as never before.
That first Easter season saw the disciples journey a very difficult path. From the early stumbling steps of soul-crushing disappointment, doubt and fear they would persist in seeking their Love, their Lord, their Savior. From the empty tomb they would continue in stumbling steps of faith, obedience, renewal and resurrection joy as their relationship with God was re-born beyond their greatest dreams. Each of them ran at different speeds. They took steps of faith in diverse ways and times. They witnessed the resurrection power of Jesus and His holy angels in different ways and places. Their journeys, while leading to God, were not always the same. But, individually, they, together, sought their Love, their God…Jesus.
Easter 2020, an Easter unlike any other for most people. But not for He who has conquered sin, death, doubt and fear. Jesus IS Risen. May we each come to the empty tomb. May we allow our angels to guide and lead us in the way of hope and Truth that is God. And may we allow the Risen Jesus to lead us through any challenges we may face to press on in faith and love to behold His face, His smile as to His healing embrace our wounded world can come.