Young Adult

There is a thing that happens to me sometimes on Easter Sunday. It does not happen every year; it didn’t this year, but when it happens it can be hard to cope with. Sometimes on Easter Sunday, I get really, really sad.

Of course, there are different reasons that this can happen. Undoubtedly, some of the times when I was a child and had an Easter meltdown, it was mostly due to the sugar crash. Then, too, Lent and Holy Week match the reality of our messy lives really well. Dry prayer lends itself to being in the desert with Jesus. Grief puts us right next to him in Gethsemane. Any kind of suffering can find its reflection in the Crucifixion. And the discouragement that can border on despair when things never seem to change can feel a lot like being shut in the tomb. Then Easter comes, whether or not we feel the Resurrection in our lives. That can be difficult to process.

Lent is something that remains partly in our control. Easter is something we can only receive.

At the parish at which I spent much of Lent and Holy Week, the priest preached about receptivity; that, as Christians, we should be really good at receiving. We have an active role to play, but it is all ordered to the opening of our hearts more and more to receive the transfiguring love of Christ. This has been a major theme in my life lately and is worth reflecting on during this trajectory of Lent to Easter to Pentecost.

Lent, as I understand it, is meant to be a time of relinquishing our grasp and control, and embracing our inherent poverty so that we can receive everything from the Father who loves us. Ideally, this embrace of poverty, receptivity and trust would open us up to receive the Resurrection at Easter and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

The letting go of our grasp during Lent is something over which we have at least some small measure of control. It is comforting to keep a grip on what’s happening interiorly. And it is easy to go even further and let Lent become a season of self-help and weight loss.

Then Easter comes and we have no way of resurrecting ourselves. All we can do is wait to receive. And, as we know from the Gospels, resurrection does not always look like what we expected. The men on the road to Emmaus lament that the Christ did not come in political power to overthrow their oppressors and instead was killed by them on a cross. “But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.” Personally, I have lots of ideas of what resurrection should look like in my own life. When none of those ideas materialize on Easter morning, it is easy to feel let down.

The Resurrection changes everything. It makes the whole story a comedy instead of a tragedy. A non-Christian of integrity and thoughtfulness can get awfully close to Catholic teaching in a lot of places, but this is a place you can’t get to on your own. Death has been conquered. Without the reality of the Resurrection, the happiest human life still ends in tragedy. If the Resurrection is real, the most tragic, sorrowful life can still have a happy ending. “If Christ did not rise from the dead, our hope is in vain.” It happened. It is done. The human story now has an upward trajectory; it is a comedy, not a tragedy.

But comedies are also full of the messy, the unexpected, the frustrating. The reality of the Resurrection is still being played out in time in each of our lives, and we are not in charge of the timeline. There is nothing to beat yourself up about if it’s hard to feel the reality of Easter. The Resurrection is something we receive, and we cannot force the timeline.

At the same time, we can say yes to what God is doing. To that end and even if we don’t always feel it, we can practice living in its reality. Often, we put more effort into the 40 days of Lent than the 50 days of Easter, but their liturgical lengths should tell us something about their relative importance. Perhaps it would be worth making Easter resolutions, similar to our Lenten ones but oriented toward the celebration of the Resurrection. Eating chocolate every day might not be a tenable choice, but perhaps choosing to do something every day that reminds you of the unity of your body and soul could help you celebrate Christ’s victory over death (which is the separation of body and soul). Dancing, going on walks, seeking out beauty, singing; there are many ways to rejoice in the goodness of the body that Christ created, redeemed and will one day resurrect.

Maybe by practicing intentional and active receptivity of the Resurrection, we will also be more attentive and receptive to the very real movements of the Holy Spirit in our lives. During Easter, the Apostles met Jesus in his resurrected body. They also spent a lot of time hiding in fear, until the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit came, those few poor men from a backwater country went out and converted the world.

One of my go-to ways to pray for people is to insert their names into the classic Holy Spirit prayer: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful, and enkindle in Claire the fire of thy love. Send forth thy Spirit and she shall be recreated and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.” The same Holy Spirit that sent the apostles out to all the world is alive and with us today. The more we practice active receptivity, the more we will be ready to listen and to act on his every movement.