Friday, May 2, 2014

Disciplines of Easter Joy

Now that Easter has arrived, we can resume our consumption of alcohol and chocolate, empty the swear jar, or ease up on whatever Lenten practices we may have taken on during the Church's season of repentance.  It seems odd to me, however, that we don't have a response for the 50 days of Easter like we do for the 40 days of Lent.  If the Christian response to John the Baptist's call, "Repent," is to adopt disciplines of contrition and penitence, then should we not also have a meaningful response to the joyful message of Easter, the resurrection of Jesus?  The Gospel of Matthew says:

But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’

The Resurrection by Carl Heinrich Bloch
Surely, this message requires some answer from us, but not just saying Jesus has risen.  The reaction of the disciples was to encounter the risen Savior, to recognize him anew, to put their hands in the wounds in his hands and his side, and now as believers in the Resurrection, start to to live differently.  Ultimately, Jesus would leave them, send the Holy Spirit into their midst, which would begin to lead them into all truth. The Church would then be born to carry on Jesus' work of new life.  So, as the inheritors of the Resurrection and those first disciples, what might we be called to do?

The general structure of the Sacrament of Confession or Reconciliation provides us with the answer.  We begin Confession with a feeling of true contrition, followed by the declaration of our sins to the priest, absolution, penance, and finally amendment of life.  It is this last piece that is the Christian response to the message, "Alleluia, Christ is risen."  When we answer, "the Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia," what we are really doing is assenting to the invitation to embrace a life of greater holiness.  After repenting in Lent, we agree to amend our lives in Easter. 

Easter joy leads to a new life focused, not on repenting for past sins and transgressions, but actively seeking to start again with a holy and healthy way of life.  Easter holiness may entail returning to regular recitation of the Daily Office or attendance at Mass on Sunday, periodic Confession or work with a spiritual director, practicing patience and generosity, daily exercise and healthy eating.  When these become our everyday rule of life, rather than a seasonal exception to the rule, we proclaim the truth of the Resurrection and live into the promise of new life that Jesus opened up for us. 

With Paschal Joy,

Ethan +

No comments:

Post a Comment