Easter Spirituality — Observations from a Friar
by Stephen Lynch
The big Easter debate this year is whether it is politically more correct to tell children the story of the Easter Bunny or Peter Rabbit. Sometimes things can get pretty mixed up at Easter even in Catholic schools.One teacher at a Catholic school asked her first grade class this question:
“Please tell me what is special about Easter?”
One little girl replied, “I usually get a new dress.”
A young boy replied, “It’s the time when our family has an Easter egg hunt.”
Then a cheery little girl raised her hand and said, “It’s when Jesus comes out of the tomb.”
The teacher was delighted until the young girl added, “If he sees his shadow, he goes back in for six weeks.”
While there may be confusion in secular society as to the meaning of Easter, there is no confusion in terms of Christian belief. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ stands as the central belief of Christianity. The entire New Testament was written in the light of this new resurrection faith. Resurrection marks the heart of the Christian creed because it confirms Jesus Christ as the Visible Presence of the Invisible God.
The Resurrection itself is not narrated in the New Testament. The Bible only narrates the empty tomb, and the apparitions of the Risen Jesus. The “inspired memory” of the Christian community enables us to locate the resurrection event in its historical context. The first-century Christian community stands as the only access to the saving event of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Belief in the Resurrection of the Lord calls for a faith experience in God and in the witness of the apostolic community.
Women played very special roles in Christ’s ministry. Jesus Christ treated women as intrinsic to his mission, and not only accepted their participation, but actively depended on it. Jesus may have walked in the company of men, but he shared some of his greatest revelations about his mission on earth with women. In the Easter Story, women were the first witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Biblical scholars tell us that women were the last to leave the scene of crucifixion and the first to greet the Risen Christ. Women discovered the empty tomb of Christ.
Jesus himself appeared first to Mary Magdalene, who then proclaimed the Easter resurrection to the apostles. The Gospels speak of Mary Magdalene as one of the women who ministered to Jesus. She was among the few courageous people who stood at the foot of the cross, witnessing the crucifixion to the very end. She assisted at the burial of Jesus, and was the first person to actually touch the Risen Christ. God proclaims the Easter resurrection by appointing Mary Magdalene as the first and chief witness to the fact that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. The resurrected Jesus appeared as a gardener to Mary Magdalene, as she stood weeping beside the tomb. He told her, “I am ascending to me Father and our Father, to my God and your God.” Jn. 20.17 Even popes have paid tribute to Mary Magdalene as the Apostle of Apostles. It appears that the women in Jesus’ life had much more faith in his ministry than the men. No female is documented in an act of doubt or betrayal. Whereas Jesus’ male disciples had a far less admirable fidelity record.
If a renewed world is to become a reality, it must be done through the linked power of both genders, and the help of God’s grace. Death may be the end of your life in this world, but not the end of your relationships. Resurrection means reunion with those we love. From his lonely wooden tower, Jesus still reaches out in mercy and love. And he will reach that way forever.
— Fr. Stephen resides in Providence, RI.