By Deacon John Degano
Lent is over. The season of Easter has begun. That’s what it says on our liturgical (church) calendar, but are we living Easter joy?
Too many of us seem to get stuck in a perpetual Lent, where we dwell on our sins and don’t believe that Jesus can actually forgive us of our trespasses or sins.
We mouth the words of the Our Father, but really and truly, we keep Jesus on the cross or in the tomb and forget that with every Good Friday there is always an Easter Resurrection.
We see this theme of ‘dying and rising’ played out in the Sacrament of Baptism, where we die to our sins and rise to new life with Jesus.
Many animals and insects re-enact this theme, as well. For example:
• Bears hibernate during the winter months.
• Caterpillars ‘hibernate’ (in a cocoon) and turn into butterflies or moths.
• And desert tortoises tend to do so twice a year—rising from their burrows in early spring to feast upon the juicy green grasses and soft stemmed plants as they bloom, but when the temperatures at ground level in the Mojave Desert rise above one hundred degrees in mid-June, they return to their burrows (some as deep as six feet underground) to avoid the surface heat. Tortoises will typically rise one more time in fall with the second rainfall season to feast and replenish their stored water to last the winter months and to lay eggs (called clutches) two or three times in a year.
With such a rhythm of life constantly played out before our eyes, we should not be surprised to find that the Paschal Mystery follows the same pattern.
And yet for some it seems counter-intuitive.
St. Paul witnessed this tendency of Jesus’ followers to dwell on their faults and not on their blessings when he questioned their faith in 1 Cor 15:12-13:
“But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised.”
He went on to say that if Jesus had not risen from the grave his testimony would be ‘empty’ and he would be a false witness to God. Our sins, he said, would still be with us.
But he reminds them in 1 Cor. 15:20-22 that Jesus has resurrected:
“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.”
So we cannot be true Easter people if we only allow ourselves to live part of the Paschal Mystery. We need to stop being people who act as if there is no hope, but rather we should rejoice daily; filled with Easter joy and announce the Good News to all that, according to St. Paul: “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!” (Phil. 2:11).
John Degano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside.