“Happy Easter.” I heartily wish one to every reader. Yet sticking the word “Happy” in front of “Easter” seems repetitious: like saying “9 a.m. in the morning.” “Easter” means happiness: It stands for an event that scatters sorrow like dust in the wind. It refers to a life that goes on forever. Easter offers a triumph that brings, to everyone who enters into it, the only joy no one can take away.
Think of what Easter did for Mary Magdalene.
The Bible hints that she had been a sinner, although it does not say what her sins were. Despite everything that went before, the worst day of her life turned out to be Good Friday. She had found a teacher who had also turned out to be a healer. The man had opened her eyes to the foolishness of looking for lasting happiness in the persons and things she encountered in this world. He had set her on the path to joy in friendship with God.
Then it happened: His betrayal by a friend, a mock trial, death by torture and burial. Sadness flooded her soul.
Two days of gloom passed. Then she met Him, changed, alive and glorious with the light of God. The good news He had brought them was true. For the following few weeks, Mary and His other friends saw and heard Him with their eyes and ears. That first Easter day, she, too, rose with Him, and lived the rest of her days on earth at His side.
For He gave her—and Peter, John, Andrew, all his faithful followers—God’s Spirit. With the Spirit to energize them, they told the world that Easter was real for Jesus, the teacher from Nazareth. They went on to announce that Easter could become real for anybody choosing to say yes to the call of Jesus.
No wonder Easter night became the chosen time for men and women who believed Christ’s message to join His family, the Church. They stepped into the water to drown the old life of foolish trust in things of earth. They washed themselves free of their sins. They declared that Jesus was the one who had their faith and love, and rose from the water to live at His side. So, for the last decades, Catholics gathering for Easter Mass have been offered a moment to renew the promises of their own baptism. They declare that they turn their backs on sinful attitudes, and then tell God and each other that they choose once again the life of faith.
Easter is the reason why when we come to Mass each Sunday, we meet not only with each other but above all with Christ Himself. Easter is the reason why plain bread and wine are changed so that the victorious Christ is here in person. Easter is the reason why we—like St. Mary Magdalene and an army of other former sinners—can rise, notably in the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation. We can rise now on earth to a life of loving deeds and keeping of God’s commandments. We can rise, in the future, to glory with Jesus.
But we must remember: This does not happen automatically. God forbid that persons at Easter Mass just say they renounce sin and just say they believe in Christ. We must LIVE these statements: each weekend at worship, in a daily walk with our Lord and caring love for others—all of which show that Christ risen is the Higher Power in our hearts.
We can do it because He is with us. Alive and all-powerful. At Mass. In the sacraments. In his Word—whether we read it or hear it. He is reaching out to us with his gift of the Spirit, his endless love.
I wish you Easter. Period. I wish you Christ risen, at your side, in your heart. For what remains of your earthly life, and in the eternity to follow.
Father Lynch serves as senior administrator of Immaculate Conception parish in Woodbourne. Ordained a priest of the archdiocese in 1965, he holds a doctorate in Philosophy in Classics and a master’s in Divinity.