We all have our pet peeves…things that annoy us. One of my pet peeves is someone not giving me a direct answer to a question. They give a detailed background, possible answers and all the implications. For those of you who know me you’re probably thinking, “Look who’s talking!” Yes, I often find myself doing the same thing!
Another of my pet peeves – and let me be clear that it’s something that I too sometimes fall into the habit of – is the way we sometimes treat the Church’s Liturgical seasons. For example, we wish people a Merry Christmas on December 25th and on the morning of December 26th or 27th we drag our Christmas trees to the curb and rush off to the Mall to return the “much appreciated” gifts from our loved ones.
Or consider how some of us begin the Easter Season a little early. Out of fear that we won’t see each other on the Day of Resurrection we began exchanging the Easter greeting during Holy Week; after the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, after Jesus’ Passion and death on Good Friday, and on Holy Saturday or the day of the Great Silence. And some of us end the Easter Season a little early. On the Friday after Easter I greeted somebody with the words “Happy Easter” to which he replied, “You’re 5 days late! Wasn’t Easter last Sunday?” We sometimes forget that the Easter Season doesn’t start until the celebration of the Easter Vigil and it doesn’t end until Pentecost Sunday. In fact, in the words of Saint Athanasius the 50 days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to the Sunday of Pentecost are celebrated as one “great Sunday”. So it’s really not appropriate to wish someone Happy Easter during Holy Week! And if you don’t get a chance to wish somebody Happy Easter on Easter Sunday, or even if you already have, you can say it without feeling awkward all the way to Pentecost Sunday!
Why does the Church set aside such a long period of time for the Easter Season? The answer…to correspond to the significance of the event! Christ is risen from the dead! By his death He conquered death, and to those in the graves he granted life! The Church’s Liturgy proclaims that we are “overcome with paschal joy”. Just before the “Holy, Holy, Holy…” at every Mass during the Easter Season the priest proclaims the words of the Preface on behalf of all of us. “Therefore, overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts, sing together the unending hymn of your glory, as they acclaim…Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.”
As a result of the Paschal Mystery – the passion death, and resurrection of Jesus – we have every reason to rejoice and no need to worry or to be afraid as we heard in today’s Gospel. The gates of heaven have been opened for us by Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection! Jesus, the way, the truth and the life leads us back to the Father who we’ve been estranged from since the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us in heaven and will come back for us so that we might spend eternity with Him. For this we are filled with Paschal joy!
But the future is not all that we have to rejoice over. All too often we focus solely on heaven as the future promised land, while ignoring all that the Father has provided us in the present. Christ ushered in the Kingdom of God which in the words of Saint Paul, “…is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit; …Let us then pursue what leads to peace and to building up one another.” This is exactly how the early church lived as we’ve been hearing throughout the Easter Season in the Book of Acts. They devoted themselves to life in community. All who believed lived together and had all things in common. They sold their property and divided their possessions according to each one’s need. They participated in the celebration of the Eucharist and to communal prayer. They lived according to the reality that the Kingdom of God was in their midst. Was life perfect and without struggle or challenge? Of course not! Today we heard that some of the Greek-speaking widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of goods. As a result, they selected the first seven deacons within the Church. From the time of the beginning of the Church then everyone was called upon to give their time, talent and treasure to the building up of the Church established by Jesus.
If we look at our Church today we have many of the same needs as the early church. So we must ask ourselves:
Are we active participants in the Church or are we simply observers?
How involved are we in the daily life of the Church or is Sunday Mass the extent of our participation?
Do we attend to those within our midst who are in need?
Do we take time to pray and discern the spiritual gifts or charisms that God has given us for the building up of His Church?
God has called each and every one of us and has prepared us to work in His Church. Today we give thanks to all mothers…living and deceased…who strive to build up the domestic Church know as the “family”, for without them we would not be here. And just as the Church sets aside time to celebrate the Paschal Mystery, we too should set aside time to rejoice in our mothers who gave us life. And so we extend a Happy Mother’s Da to all mothers…not only the mothers who have nurtured us but our spiritual mothers as well. We also remember and pray for mothers who have experienced great loss with their families.
But let us not forget the ultimate reason for our rejoicing today. Christ is risen from the dead! By his death He conquered death! And to those in the grave He granted life! And since we’re still in the 50 day period between Easter and Pentecost, I say to you…Christ is Risen indeed! Alleluia! Happy Easter!