Let’s just say I do not have the greatest track record when it comes to Lent. I always start Lent with good intentions, but I always fall short (and sometimes quite miserably). There was the year in college when I announced that I was going to give up cussing. On Ash Wednesday at exactly 12:05am, I realized I had more reading to do before going to bed than I originally had thought and yelled, “Oh $#!@!” (my roommates still have not let me live that one down).
I try do more for others, take better care of myself, pray more, etc. and sometimes I make some progress, but in the middle of those forty days things happen – laptops die, bad colds are caught, papers deadlines loom – and bam! I forget my Lenten promises and turn into a self-centered grump.
And then, before you know it, it’s Easter and I feel so, so… unprepared, I guess.
But, Easter ALWAYS COMES. Jesus rises. The disciples did not always understand Jesus and they did not always display the greatest faith. Many of them deserted him at the cross (only a few women stayed). Yet, Jesus still appeared to them! And, even then, some of them doubted it was really him at first. Eventually, however, they all still experienced that Easter joy.
Traditionally, January 1 is New Year’s Day. But as a Catholic, I’ve always felt like Easter sort of marks the beginning of a New Year for Christians. The disciples were so afraid and they were grieving the loss of their friend. On Easter, their faith was renewed. Easter was a new beginning. They could continue on with their lives assured that Jesus would always be with them, that his crucifixion did not have the last word, that God raised Jesus and would raise them too.
Easter can be a new beginning for us as well. Like it was for the disciples, it is not a promise that everything is going to be perfect. Jesus’ friends still struggled and experienced hardship, but they did so knowing that their Savior was never far from them, that their suffering would not have the last word. I imagine this must have been what St. Peter (yep, the same guy who denied Jesus three times) was thinking when he was crucified for preaching Jesus’ message.
We can allow Christ’s Resurrection to transform us as it transformed Jesus’ disciples. Instead of simply basking in the joy of singing “Jesus Christ is risen today!” at Mass on Easter Sunday and then going back to our old distracted selves on Monday morning, we can decide to let the Easter joy permeate our lives throughout the rest of the year.
Perhaps, like the disciples, we can gain the courage to do what we previously were afraid to do. This can mean taking an active part in protesting unjust social systems like racism, homophobia, and sexism. Or it can be as simple as inviting a lonely person to sit with you and your friends at lunch. It can mean no longer being afraid of approaching the homeless man on the street with an offering of food and a smile. It can mean reaching out to someone who we know is ill or grieving instead of being too afraid because we do know what to say. It can mean standing up for the person being bullied, instead of being a silent bystander.
We can start acting like people touched by Jesus’ Resurrection regardless of how well we did or did not observe Lent this year. “Failing Lent” is no excuse to not take part in the joy of Easter by striving to be the presence of Christ in the lives of others. Like the first Christians, we are not perfect and we will likely falter and make mistakes. Yet, instead of beating ourselves up or waiting until next Lent or next year, we can have the courage to apologize. We can get back up, dust ourselves off, and start spreading God’s love in whatever ways we can. As Jesus came to meet his friends on the Road to Emmaus, he will come to meet us today wherever we are, whenever we seek him.
|Treat Easter as a new beginning! Try praying with our audio mediation for New Beginnings.|