By Anthony Berry
Over the past few years, Easter has slowly become my favorite holiday. It usually comes at a wonderful time of year filled with graduations, weddings, first communions, confirmations, baseball, March Madness and so on. The Easter season is a time of year that is filled with so much life and energy. This Easter, I had the chance to go to a Sunday service at the Washington National Cathedral, and the sermon was one of the best that I have heard in a long time. It reminded me of why Easter truly matters in the first place and how as Christians we are called to live with the joy of Easter every single day. It can be hard to maintain the joy of Easter when most of the time the world feels more like Good Friday. One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned in my short life thus far is that life can be hard. Existentially, we see constant images of war and violence, dishonest politicians, horrible natural disasters, and so on. Interiorly, there is loneliness, depression, stress and being misunderstood. Between work, school, family, friends, relationships, trials, heartbreak, disappointment, and every other obstacle of life, our soul cries out for rest. During the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King had an interaction with an elderly African American religious sister named Mother Pollard who lived in Montgomery, AL during the famous bus boycott against segregation in the 1950s. During the entirety of the protests Mother Pollard walked to and from her destinations unfailingly. When asked if she was tired of walking to sustain the boycott, she famously replied: “My feets is tired, but my soul is rested.” Life will get the better of us on many occasions. It will wear us down to the point that we may not want to go on. However, the Good News of Easter and of Jesus’ gospel is that our souls are able to find rest.
“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are an Easter people and hallelujah is our song!” – Pope John Paul II
While Christ does not tell us that he’ll completely take away those problems right now, he leaves us with the Holy Spirit to make sure that we can find rest in Him. Easter cannot be just a nice idea with no reality behind it. Either Christ actually rose from the dead, or it really is April Fool’s Day as the date this year would fittingly suggest. If Christ did not really rise, then Easter is nothing more than just a holiday to play dress-up, wear fun pastels, and have brunch. But if He truly rose, as we believe He did, that changes everything. Christ promised that those who believe in Him would have everlasting life, not just far off in the future, but right now. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in you by virtue of your baptism and confirmation.
At the heart of the Christian mission is defiance. We are called to be defiant against a world that can be cold, heartless, and violent. In the face of turbulent times, we must be reminded that our Savior lives. In John 10:10, Jesus reminds us that: “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” When God made the world, He said that it was good, and He has no intention of abandoning it. God wants to lead the world out of its current darkness, but we have to allow Him. If you’ve ever been to Easter Vigil Mass at a large basilica or cathedral, one of the most moving parts of the liturgy is when all the lights are turned off and a fire is lit outside of the church. From that fire, the celebrant will light the Paschal candle and process through the church. As the procession moves toward the altar, the candles of each congregant are lit from the first flame of the Paschal candle, and the church goes from complete darkness to being beautifully illuminated by hundreds of candles. This has always been one of my favorite representations of how Christians are called to live. We must bring light to a world that too often is filled with darkness. Most of us will not go on to be the next Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr., but each of us is called to holiness through our baptismal promises. We must allow the love of Christ to flow through us and into the world in simple but radical ways. That will look different for each one of us. It could mean sending a handwritten note to one of your professors at the end of the semester. It could mean inviting that one friend to Tuesday night Mass and Meal. It could mean deciding to sacrifice going out for lunch a few days to donate to a charity that you really care about. It could mean asking one of your friends or coworkers if there is something that you can pray for them for. As you strive to maintain the joy of this Easter season, remember the words of St. Paul in the letter to the Philippians:
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8
Our actions and deeds are a reflection of what we truly value. Live your life in a way that glorifies God and brings those around you closer to him, in whatever way that looks like for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to know how to do it. If you do that, the joy of the risen Lord will be with you, regardless of what life throws your way.