A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘Easter

As the afternoon sun turned to clouds today, I thought about the old saw that April showers bring May flowers. For the beauty of spring to materialize, we need those cloudy, rainy days.

The same is true of our faith: to reach the joy of Easter, we must first go through Good Friday. Without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, there would be no resurrection to proclaim. And only once Jesus returned to the Father did the Holy Spirit come to the apostles, preparing them to go out and begin building the Church by proclaiming the good news to the Jews and the Gentiles.

Yes, the Good Friday service can be sombre, with the reading of the Passion story and veneration of the cross making Jesus’ sacrifice more real, and with our leaving the church in silence. But we can look forward to the joy of the light spreading in the church at the Easter Vigil. We can gladly sing the Gloria again at whichever Easter service we attend.

As we gather with family to celebrate Easter, I pray that we would look beyond the chocolate, candy and cards and remember that, before the disciples rejoiced at his rising, Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,

he was bruised for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that made us whole,

and with his stripes we are healed.

~ Isaiah 53:5*

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

cat in the sun

Pixie basking in the sun

Hope is the only bee that makes honey without flowers.

~ Robert G. Ingersoll, quoted in the Book of Positive Quotations, 2nd Edition

Earlier this month, I saw the first real signs of spring in my yard. Not the mud patches exposed by the melted snow, or the brown grass beginning to turn green, but the purple and yellow crocuses that were quickly followed by early stardrift.

I heard the sounds of spring in the early morning birdsong outside my bedroom window. And I felt spring in the sunshine—not the cold glare of winter sun, but the warm rays of spring our cats and dog (and even our corn snake) like to bask in.

The arrival of spring gives the world a fresh start and offers us hope that life goes on—just as Jesus’ resurrection gives us both the hope of new life in him now and the hope of eternal life.

The scriptures talk about the hope that we have in Jesus. The apostle Paul, in Romans 15:13*, speaks of our God as “the God of hope”: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Note that we’re called to “abound in hope,” not just to have a faint hope that God will be with us and help us. And when we feel as though we don’t dare to hold out hope anymore—for recovery from an illness, for a child to return to the church, for other long-awaited good news—we need to remember that we can ask the Holy Spirit to renew our hope. As Psalm 147:11 reminds us, God longs for us to place our hope always in him, in his power and in his faithful love for us:

His delight is not in the strength of the horse,

nor his pleasure in the legs of a man;

but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,

in those who hope in his steadfast love.

Even when life throws us a curve ball, we can think about the times God has strengthened us in the past and continue to hope and trust in him, as the psalmist does in Psalm 43:5:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my savior and my God.

I pray that, whatever situations we face, we would hold onto our hope in the Lord and his love for us.

stardrift

Early stardrift in my garden

Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.

~ George Iles, quoted in the Book of Positive Quotations, 2nd Edition

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

When I was expecting my son, the morning sickness (or all-day sickness) and fatigue at the beginning were…less than fun, but less challenging than the last few weeks, which saw me dressed for comfort in my husband’s t-shirts, with my sneakers laced as loosely as possible, and my wedding ring on a chain around my neck.

But the physical discomfort was worth it when I had my son. And saw a new life begin.

Sometimes we have to go through discomfort and even pain to find the joy and new life on the other side. And that was never more true than at the first Easter.

Jesus was flogged, crowned with thorns, forced to carry his own cross, and crucified while others mocked him and divided up his clothing. One of his disciples had betrayed him; many of them had fled out of fear; and one, Peter, had denied three times that he knew him.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,

he was bruised for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that made us whole,

and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Jesus willingly went through all this, knowing that he would rise on the third day, so that we would have forgiveness of our sins and the hope of new life in him.

The disciples feared persecution and mourned the loss of their teacher and their idea of the Messiah, only to be overjoyed when Jesus stood among them and to learn the truth about why he came to live among us:

“Thus it written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47)

As we walk in the shadow of the cross tomorrow, may we remember all that Jesus went through to save us and the joy that awaits us at Easter, when it will be proclaimed, “The Lord is truly risen, alleluia.”

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

For many people, celebrating Easter weekend means taking a few days’ break from work or school. Maybe it also means watching children hunt for foil-wrapped chocolate eggs and gathering with family to share a dinner of ham or lamb. But the celebration doesn’t go any deeper than that.

I know that my family enjoys the long weekend, the egg hunt and the family meal. But as Christians, Easter means so much more to us.

As Pat Gohn writes in a February/March 2013 Catholic Digest column on the Year of the Faith, “If we pay attention, we see that the Church keeps celebrating the joy of the Resurrection long after the Easter candy is gone.”

Especially in this Year of the Faith, when we’re encouraged to become more familiar with the Catechism, it’s worth reading sections 595 to 658 to learn more about Holy Week and the meaning of the events that unfolded.

Pat Gohn’s column also reminds us of what the Catechism has to say about Easter in s. 1169:

Therefore Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the ‘Feast of feasts’, the ‘Solemnity of solemnities’, just as the Eucharist is the ‘Sacrament of sacraments’ (the Great Sacrament).

And so we turn from the penitential time of Lent to the joyful Easter season.

Some of us will find it hard to celebrate because we’re struggling with illness or loss of one kind or another. My family is grieving the loss this week of our beloved cat Loki, who was part of our family for over fifteen years. But as I wrote in my recent post, “Joy in Our Hearts,” while we’re not happy now, we can still find joy in our faith.

This weekend, with Christians around the world, we will hear anew how the disciples mourned the death of the Lord on the cross and rejoiced at his triumphing over death by his resurrection. We will sing and proclaim, “Alleluia!” We will rejoice in the knowledge that Jesus rose from the dead and is preparing a place for us.

May we echo the words of the apostle Paul:

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition)

So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13*)

Think, for just a moment, about something that you dread but can’t avoid—like a speech, an exam, an interview, a journey, an operation—and that will lead to something better. Does it give you butterflies in the stomach, clammy hands, sleepless nights?

Whatever it is and however you feel can’t begin to compare with what Jesus faced in the days before his death on the cross. As the Gospels tell us, he was welcomed and hailed by the crowds one day but would suffer much in the days that followed:

  • Judas would betray him.
  • His followers would abandon him.
  • Peter would deny him.
  • Pilate would order his crucifixion.
  • Soldiers would mock and scourge him, force him to carry his cross through the streets, and crucify him next to criminals.
  • While he hung on the cross, the priests, scribes, elders and passersby would mock him.
  • He would suffer, die, and be buried in someone else’s tomb.

Luke 22:42-44 tells us that Jesus prayed as his suffering was about to begin:

“Father, if you are willing, remove this chalice from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.

Then he faced all this for our sake, knowing that his suffering would save us and that he would soon be returning to the Father and sending the Holy Spirit to guide us.

I had learned all this as a child, but it really sank in when I watched The Passion of the Christ. While certain parts of this film have been criticized, the movie makes it very clear just how much Jesus suffered for our sake.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned every one to his own way;

and the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

This week, I hope that you will have some time to spend in prayer to think about Jesus’ love and sacrifice. If your prayer time is limited, maybe you could listen to some praise songs in the car or while you do chores. Here are a few songs for the week from my own CDs:

I also hope that you would have the chance to participate in other Holy Week services along with the Easter (or Easter Vigil) service and pray that you would be filled with joy at knowing Jesus came to save you.

(*Quotes from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition)

Spring arrived yesterday—even in the National Capital Region, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at this week’s fresh snow.

There are certain rites we associate with this season, like spring cleaning. In my house, this will include a toy cleanup and purge, since my son will soon turn 13 and doesn’t play with many of his toys anymore.

Maybe spring cleaning should go beyond dusting for cobwebs and cleaning out junk drawers to taking a closer look at our spiritual life.

Our culture tells us many things can make us happy: food, alcohol, money, power, the “right” house or car, and even plastic surgery. But even if these things could make us happy, let’s face it—happiness is fleeting. What lasts is joy.

My parish church recently held a mission. As the Redemptorist priest speaking during the mission reminded the congregation, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11*). The priest noted that many people attend Mass regularly and try to follow Jesus’ teachings yet don’t seem to know what joy is.

It’s often said that Christians are an Easter people. So shouldn’t we be filled with the joy that comes from knowing our Saviour who loves us and died to save us from our sins, who sent us the Holy Spirit as a counsellor, and who gives us strength to “do all things” (see Philippians 4:13)? And shouldn’t this joy be something others can notice?

There are people in my parish—fellow parishioners as well as priests—who seem calm even when life is busy and stressful, who naturally put other people at ease, who live out their faith without trying to call attention to themselves, who just seem content. They share not only their treasure but also their time and talents with the parish and clearly enjoy serving the Church and the Lord. They just radiate joy. Read the rest of this entry »


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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