by Father Mark Goldasich
The Vatican canceled Easter.
So reads the first part of a meme that I received. It continues: You know how much stuff has to be messed up for the pope to be like “You know what, this year Jesus stays dead.”
Holy cow, what a misguided sentiment. First of all, the pope did not cancel Easter. The only thing different this year for many people is there will be no public Masses on Easter.
However, it does seem that, because of this necessary limitation on public gatherings, some folks are behaving as if “this year Jesus stays dead.” As Christians, we know that nothing could be further from the truth!
The resurrection of Jesus was a unique event that happened some 2000 years ago. As Catholics, every time we attend Mass, we commemorate that event and continue to feel its saving effects in our lives.
So, even though we can’t celebrate Easter as a physical community gathered together, Jesus is still very much alive and at work in our lives and in the world.
Now, there’s no way to outdo the story of the Resurrection. The following tale, though, may remind each of us of what we celebrate:
A true story is told about a distinguished man, the only white person buried in a Georgia cemetery reserved for black people. This particular man had lost his mother when he was just a baby. His father, who never remarried, hired a black woman by the name of Mandy to help raise his son. She was a Christian, and she took her task seriously.
Seldom has a motherless boy received such warmhearted attention. One of his early memories was of Mandy bending tenderly over him in his upstairs bedroom each day and softly saying, “Wake up! God’s mornin’ is come!”
As the years passed, this devoted woman continued to serve as his surrogate mother. The young man went away to college, but when he would come home on holidays and in the summer, she would still climb the stairs and call him in the same loving way.
One day, after he had become a successful statesman, this sad message came: “Mandy is dead. Can you attend her funeral?”
As he stood by her grave in the cemetery, he turned to his friends and said, “If I die before Jesus comes again, I want to be buried here beside Mandy. I like to think that on the Resurrection Day, she’ll speak to me again and say, “Wake up, my boy, God’s mornin’ is come!” (Found in “Illustrations Unlimited,” edited by James S. Hewett.)
Easter Sunday this year is a particularly appropriate time for us to “wake up.” This coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our lives . . . and our complacency. This Easter is not normal, and that’s not such a bad thing.
In a sense, we’re forced to remember that very first Easter. The apostles were huddled behind locked doors — confused and fearful. There was no large, joyful gathering singing “Alleluia!”
And even when the risen Lord did appear, they were still frightened. It took some time before they could “wake up” to this wonderful event.
Maybe this pandemic is causing us to wake up to what the resurrection of the Lord really means. I suspect that some people simply miss the cultural event of Easter — the wearing of new clothes to church, the ham dinner, the Easter egg hunt — and not so much its spiritual meaning. Christ rose to give us a new life, a new way of looking at things, a new way to live.
Personally, I hope things don’t get back to “normal” once the pandemic has passed. Instead, I pray that the valuable lessons that we’re learning in these days help us to truly accept the new life of the Resurrection, to change for the better.
May we move from the greed of hoarding to the new life of generosity and sharing; from selfishly living only for ourselves to the new life of solidarity, especially with those who are poor, lonely or ignored; and from the old life of taking others for granted to the new life of endlessly thanking others for their service to us.
In short, may God wake each of us up to his life within us this Easter, so that we can proclaim with renewed vigor: “God’s mornin’ is come!”
And nothing will ever be the same.