Sunday, March 31, is Easter Sunday (Year C, Cycle I).
Acts 10:34, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; John 20:1-9
The 40 days of Lent mirror those that Jesus spent in the desert, fasting and then being tempted. We also know that Lent prepares us to celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus in the Holy Week Tridduum that we complete at Easter.
But have you ever noticed that, once Lent is over, the power of Easter is such that the fasting with Christ in the desert is forgotten?
But there are interesting parallels between the two periods of time.
For one, the fasting in the desert ended with three temptations: to make bread, to gain fame in Jerusalem and to triumph through honoring Satan. Ironically, the Lenten season ends with three special days: the day Jesus instituted the Bread of the Eucharist, the day he was killed ignominiously in Jerusalem and the day he triumphed by being humble and obedient to his Father, even to death on a cross.
Another parallel: The fasting in the desert ended with Jesus returning to "real life" with a new strength "in the Spirit." He launched a new phase of his mission after the desert experience, becoming serious about getting his message in front of the people. Likewise, our Lenten fast starts in cold February, when our neighborhoods look lifeless like the desert, and then continues to the threshold of April, with all of its flowers. The world is seeing spring and new growth — a return to "real life." We are no doubt called to re-enter the "real life" of spring renewed in the Spirit, too.
The Church in her wisdom has gone to great lengths to give us this spirit of renewal. We go through the grueling reading of Passion Sunday and then through the emotional Triduum. Then, when Easter comes, we celebrate Jesus’ return to life by recommitting ourselves to our baptismal promises.
This season of Easter isn’t just the end of a fast — it is the beginning of something new.
The liturgy of Easter Day very pointedly tells us this. First, it gives us Peter. Last we saw him, he was denying Christ as the Passion began. Now, he is boldly proclaiming Christ to whoever will listen. The Church is suggesting we undergo the same change.
There are two choices for the second reading today, and both remind us that we are called not just to end a fast, but to begin a project of raising the eyes of the world to eternity. In one, Paul says, "If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above." In the other: "Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?"
We are to be yeast in the world, focusing our time on what is above.
At the end of the Mass for the past year and a half, we have been hearing new dismissal options, including, "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord" and "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life."
After this Lent and Passion Week, Easter gives us that same message even more strongly.
Christ is alive. He is risen. The fast is over. We have recommitted ourselves to the Lord.
Let us leave the church after this busy week ready to share Christ’s life with others in springtime, telling them about the glorious reality of the risen Lord and what Easter really means.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence
at Benedictine College.