Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
In many places, the Monday of Easter week is the day for celebrating God’s laughter. Easter, after all, is not just our deliverance from death, but the ultimate instance of God, in a sort of zen humility, quietly putting one over on the devil. On Calvary, God gave the mighty Lucifer—that great jackass—all the rope he needed to hang himself. On Easter Monday, the Church shouts (in proper ecclesial Latin), “What a maroon! What a sucker! Good job genius! You had it all figured out, you great bullying murderer and tyrant. You finally got the plum prize in your claws and figured you’d won once and for all. You nailed him to the cross, and now you and your kingdom of death are hurled to the ground and the merest peasant, the lowest wretch born in a ditch and living in misery in one of your flophouses somewhere can be born again and become a child of the living God, resplendent in glory, while you—who used to be a high archangel before you decided to start murdering babies to prove how big and powerful you are—are going to be eating out of Hell’s dumpsters for all eternity. Smooth move, smart guy!”
There’s a place in the Christian tradition for rejoicing in the fall of the cosmic tyrant and dancing in the streets for victory over the prostrate form of Satan while singing “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead!” Here’s how John Donne, one of our greatest poets, did it. I dedicate it to all who mourn and miss a loved one:
Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
Happy Easter! The worst thing that can ever happen has already happened: God has been crucified. And from that horror God has brought the best thing that can ever happen: the destruction of sin and death and the decisive defeat of the bullying evil spirit who turned the world into a death camp. We’re in clover! Sittin’ pretty! Our troubles are over! And the devil is such a loser and a buffoon! So let’s party because the joke’s on him. Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ!