Time to Give It Up!

What did you do for Easter? We had a wedding of dear neighbors on Saturday evening so we missed the Vigil Service. We went to 9 a.m. Mass at Christ the King and then our three generational family gathered at our niece’s house for a dinner of roast lamb and glazed ham. A novel twist to the time-honored Easter egg hunt greeted the kids this year – an age-appropriate math problem was inside each egg and the kids had to solve it before getting their “prize”. It met with mixed reviews!

What did you do for Lent? Perhaps you gave up alcohol, dessert or meat on Fridays. Some try to attend Mass more frequently during the week. Of course, we were conscious of Ash Wednesday and probably willingly wore the ashen smudge on our foreheads. Some of us still have palms, now faded beige and crunchy like pretzels, from little more than a week ago.

Notice how differently we answer the two questions – What did you do for Easter? What did you do for Lent? Mike Jordan Laskey poignantly poses the difference [link] in his posting on the Millennial blog: “‘What are you doing for Lent?’ is a probing spiritual question. It requires a 40-day answer, and implies action and discipline. ‘What are you doing for Easter?’ is a polite piece of small talk. It has to do with a day’s plans. We celebrate well, and then it’s ‘almost summer’ and things begin to wind down.”

Why is this? Why do we feel a religious compulsion to really get-into Lent and so easily slide past the spiritual patrimony of Christ’s resurrection from the dead? I have my opinions, merely a hunch. Seems to me most people are excessively burdened by shame, a pernicious sense of inadequacy or insecurities about self-worth. The rigor of Lent can too easily feed into these attitudes. Easter is about grace, virtue and who we are in the fullness of our human potential – Imagio Dei, created good and intended for intimate relationship with God.

Laskey reminds us – and sadly we do need to be reminded – that Easter is a 50-day season, ten days longer than the Lenten marathon! I would also point out that our celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead is liturgically drawn out over eight full days – recall our Christian roots in the Jewish feast of Passover. Go to church next weekend and it will still be “Easter Sunday”!

Christians by definition are called to “pivot” from death to life! It is as if the Risen One encounters us feeling dejected on our respective way back home to Emmaus or with the persecuting Paul en route to Damascus: “Stop! It’s time to give it up! Let go of your death-dealing and live!” More than any Lenten practice of prayer, almsgiving or fasting perhaps our most urgent human need is to answer the question: “What are you doing for Easter?”

Here are a few ideas to prime the pump:

Paul identified nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  Focus on more fully developing one of them for the 50-days of the Easter season.

Pentecost 2014 will be celebrated on Sunday, June 8 – fix that date in your mind, mark it on your calendar. Actively anticipate the coming of the Spirit by opening yourself more fully to what the Spirit may wish to do with or in you. A fancy spiritual word for this is discernment. Whatever word you use: What does God wish to call forth in you at this time and place in your life?

Integral to Paul’s encounter with the Risen One on the road to Damascus was his blinding recognition that in persecuting others he was persecuting Christ. Where do we see the Body of Christ suffering, persecuted, dying? Will we extend compassion, healing and restore God’s good creation?

It is time to give up shame, sin and self-doubt! Christ is Risen!

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