Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
To start Lent, we marked ourselves with ashes, an outward sign of an internal reality. “We are dust and to dust we shall return.” In what way have we allowed ourselves to be marked to proclaim to the world, “We are an Easter People?”
In preparing for this great feasting season of Easter, we abstained. We prayed. We gave alms. We did things to help whittle away at our own proclivities for sin, and to stretch our willingness to know, love and serve God and our neighbor as ourselves. What will we do in this time of proclaiming, “He is risen,” to show we know this reality, not only in the breaking of the bread, but in our hearts, to the marrow of our bones? What is our Easter resolution?
The early Christians stood out not because they had political connections, or because they all gave eloquent speeches, though some did, or because of their wealth or intellect or the size of their families. The early Christians stood out because of how they treated everyone they encountered. “Look how they love one another.” We believe in the Resurrection of Our Lord. We believe Jesus Christ died for us, for our sins, freeing us from the ultimate consequence of sin, provided we live that belief not merely in our words but our lives. How does that manifest itself? How are we to be different?
The week of Holy Week, this question kept plaguing my mind. I didn’t know how to answer. This past Lent, I’ve spent asking if I could pray for people. A friend said how much she’d miss this after Easter and I admit, I thought, “Me too.”
Easter Monday, it was time to tackle an errand we’d put off. To get a driver’s license, my son needed a social security card. To get a social security card, he needed evidence of his identity. We drove to the doctors for medical records. En route, we saw a man begging in the rain, and offered him a little something. He asked me my name and asked, “May I pray for you?” We exchanged names and I thought about my lament of last week, and the precise words Jerome the beggar in the rain used.
An hour later, I sat with my teenager waiting at the Social Security office to get him a new card. When the man called us to the window, he bantered with my teenager over the forms. I noticed the clerk wore a beautiful silver medal and asked about it. “It’s in memory of my son. He died eleven months ago. He would have been about your son’s age.” Impulsively, I said, “I’ll pray for you and your son. What’s his name?” It was a Saint Brendan medal. We finished up, and I drove home, my head full of wonder. Here I was asking, what do I do now? And here, I kept being answered.
My husband came home and as I told him the whole two stories, he agreed and said, “We should consider continuing our resolutions, not because they are sacrifices, but because they’ve become part of who we are.” As if to accent the point, at that instant, a friend texted me, asking for prayers for her parish, knowing I’d “finished” my Lenten resolution. She was asking, “pray for me.” We’re supposed to be changed by Lent and all the more so by Easter. We’re supposed to become more the people we were intended to be. So I’m going to keep asking, because this whole life is both not fully Lent and not fully Easter. “May I pray for you?” needed to become part of how I would respond to people, both online and in the scarier moments of face to face, which meant, it needed to be more than a 40 day habit. May I pray for you?