So here we are. We have made it through the 40 day journey of Lent, we have celebrated the sacred liturgies of the Triduum, and now we find ourselves in Easter. I must admit to you that I find it harder to accept the current quarantine/social distancing situation during Easter than I did during Lent. In a way, the sacrifices that the precautionary measures have required of us were kind of appropriate for Lent, which is a time of prayer and self-denial. But Easter is a feast – the greatest feast of the year. It is a time of celebration. But it is much harder to celebrate the holy feast when you can’t be with loved ones, when you can’t worship together at Mass. Lent is over and Easter is here, but it still feels like Lent!
Stuck in this strange Easter funk, I spent some time yesterday with the gospel reading for Easter morning (John 20:1-9). In it, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb early in the morning and finds the stone removed. She runs to get Peter and John, who run to see what has happened. Peter goes into the tomb and sees the burial cloths but there is no body. John follows Peter into the tomb and the gospel tells us: “he saw and believed.” The gospel ends with a line that reads like a non sequitur: “For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” But I think that line helps us grapple with the tension of knowing we should be rejoicing but still feeling weary of the burdens we’re forced to bear this year.
On that first Easter morning, the followers of Christ knew that something amazing had happened. But they did not yet understand. It would take time for them to work it out with guidance from the risen Lord. Although they rejoiced when they saw Jesus in their midst, they would remain frightened and confused even after the resurrection. There were days when they even felt nostalgia for their pre-Christian lives, those days that they spent fishing on the Sea of Galilee. Only with the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost would the disciples of Christ finally be set on fire with zeal for spreading the gospel, a fire that burned away any trace of fear or bewilderment.
Our period of lock-down continues for now, even though it is Easter. It is not easy. But even though we are working through the current reality, and we long for the day when we might be able to worship together as before and gather together with friends and family as before, we must not forget that this IS a time of rejoicing and celebration. Through our daily and intentional contemplation of the significance of the resurrection, we ask the Lord to prepare us for the day when we can finally emerge from our rooms, our hearts aflame with renewed devotion, ready to celebrate together the freedom that we have received from our faith in the risen Christ.