One of the most insightful comments I ever heard about Easter came from Fr. Ed Foley, professor of Liturgy and Music at Catholic Theological Union. It was several years ago, and those comments were shared in an Easter Sunday homily he gave at a Mass I attended. Did you ever sit there, listening intently to the homily, and just know the presider was talking directly to you? This was one of those times.
My father had died three weeks earlier. On some spiritually odd level, I found comfort in thinking that Lent was a good time to go home to God. Resurrection was near, and my father would experience Easter joy fully. That year, I longed for Easter; I longed for Resurrection.
Being a liturgical minister in my Church, I said “Yes” to every opportunity to help, both at the Easter Vigil Saturday night, and at Masses on Easter Sunday morning. I wanted a really good dose of Resurrection. However, the first two Masses left me feeling disappointed. I couldn’t name exactly what I wanted or needed to experience, but I knew it wasn’t happening. Although the Easter Vigil was lovely, and I rejoiced in the eight adults who became Catholic, I left feeling somewhat empty. At the 9 a.m. Mass Easter morning, the children’s choir was absolutely angelic, but again, sadness prevailed. Perhaps grief was part of it; or maybe I set myself up for disappointment by expecting too much. Before the next Mass, I asked God to help me let go of my expectations, quit looking for resurrection, and simply be open. Feeling somewhat discouraged, the 10:30 Mass began, with Fr. Foley presiding.
It’s amazing how different a situation is when you enter it without expectations. I felt more free, more focused, and more open to hearing God’s voice. The Scripture readings for Easter are incredibly powerful. Why hadn’t I sunk into them earlier? The Liturgy of the Word, the first part of Mass, was flowing beautifully. Next came Fr. Foley’s homily.
It took him only a minute or so to get to his point. He said something like, “Many of us have come here looking for resurrection. I’m here to tell you, it’s not going to happen!” You can imagine my surprise! I could not have listened any more intently, or with any greater level of anticipation. “Christ’s resurrection was a historical event that happened once, 2000 years ago, and it’s over. No, Easter isn’t about resurrection.” Wow. Really? OK. What does that mean? Where are we now? My soul silently begged him to go on….
“No, stop looking for resurrection,” he continued. “Instead, look for encounters with the Risen Lord. No one was present for Jesus’ rising from the dead. ‘Easter’ was the disciples encountering the risen Lord, and living differently because of it. So can we.” He said it again, “Instead of looking for resurrection, look for encounters with the Risen Lord….” And that was the last I heard. Fr. Foley was still talking, but I was revisiting the many people and situations through which I had encountered the Risen Lord throughout dad’s illness, death, and the weeks that followed. There were many. I had encountered the Risen Lord countless times. My heart filled with gratitude.
Later, I wrote Fr. Foley an e-mail thanking him for that wisdom. He responded back, saying that Easter is so much more than a once a year festival; it’s an attitude. Encounters with the Risen Lord are everyday experiences, and Eucharist, if celebrated authentically, IS Easter.
We celebrate Lent for 40 days. We celebrate the Easter season for 50. But wouldn’t it be great if we all adopted an “Attitude of Easter,” became an “Easter People” and truly celebrated Easter every day of our lives? Happy Easter!