Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012. St. Nicholas.
We’ve come to the high point of the Christian calendar: Easter! The nature of who we are as followers of Christ is summed up and celebrated this very day. Each time we gather at the Holy Eucharist, the Liturgy, the Mass, the Worship, the Service, however we refer to it, is a celebration of our faith. However, Easter is the pinnacle of celebrations. Sadly, Easter tends to take a back seat to Christmas in terms of popularity, even in a secular sense it is Christmas that far exceeds Easter. It is sad, because Easter embodies what our faith is all about. Jesus’ death is what provides us our new life! Easter is the full presence of Christ in a far greater and more glorious manner.
I remember an event of many years ago. I was in 6th grade, that awkward stage when you feel you’re not a little kid anymore, at the cusp of entering junior high, but still enjoy some of the games and events like the younger kids. 2 of my friends and I had heard about a big Easter event going on a park not too far from our homes. So, we walked the 2 miles to the park and there, hundreds of kids where all gathered, music and balloons filled the air. It was certainly a party atmosphere. We watched and wondered. Finally, 2 women waved us over and invited us to be part of the festivities. We resisted at first…it didn’t look cool that we’d be with all these other kids. But, we did join in. It was this massive Easter Egg Hunt…and I mean massive. We were told that there were more than 2 thousands eggs scattered in a closed off area of the park. And, some where out there were 2 golden eggs. Inside that golden egg was a special surprise for the lucky finder. The bells were rung and the kids all went flying out onto the grounds and the hunt began. My friends and I looked at each other, decided to watch rather than ‘play.’ Yet, all three of us looked around at the ground, just in case we spotted the golden egg. And wouldn’t you know it. Tucked carefully amidst a pile of stones was one of those golden eggs! And, I found it. At first, I pretended it was nothing, bending over and picking up the egg, I showed my friends and slipped it in my pocket. I didn’t open the egg…not sure why, but I felt sort of embarrassed by it all. My two friends were giddier about it than me and they literally dragged me over to the booth to claim my special prize. And there it was; a life size stuffed bunny…all pink and blue with a ribbon around its neck with a little Easter cap atop its head and carrying a basket full of treats and goodies. That stuffed bunny was just as, if not a bit taller than me. My two friends laughed till it hurt and they scooted off, not wanting to walk with me while I carried that big bunny toy. So, I walked alone. 2 miles to get home and past all those houses and people driving by…I began to feel ill at ease and that bunny began to get pretty heavy. Cars driving by honked their horns and people waved as they went by. There was nothing mean about it. People were trying to be ‘funny,’ but it wasn’t very humorous to me, that’s for sure. But, I loved that big bunny…really I did. I couldn’t wait to get it home. Remember what I said, 6th grade was a difficult time…that point in a young life where a child fells differently every day. For me, one day I was still a kid and the next day, I could do pretty much anything without much fear.
What was I going to do with the big, old stuffed bunny? What does a kid do with any of their stuff…they put it in their room and it stays there…for show or whatever. Then again, I grew up in a Maltese home and my Mom was very precise about how things were to be in our rooms…only one way would do…her way and her way was clean, clean and cleaner. This included nothing on the floor or things tapped to the walls and certainly nothing on the bedspread, that’s for sure. Thus, there was going to be very little room for my big bunny. I was getting closer to home. Lots of kids came over to me and wanted to get a closer look at what I was carrying. After all, it’s not too often you see some one coming down the street carrying a life size stuffed bunny toy with a basket filled with treats and goodies. I could see the bell tower of my parish church and I knew I was so close.
I turned a corner and I heard kids playing in a yard. A large family lived at this particular home which sat right at the corner. The kids were always clean, though their clothes were somewhat threadbare and they always seemed quite happy. But I knew they didn’t have much money and didn’t have much to play with. They came over to the fence to see this giant bunny rabbit. They didn’t say much, but their eyes were so wide and their smiles were so broad…it stopped me right in my track. Their Mom came out and she waved to me. I waved back and called her over to the fence. We walked a ways away from the kids so we could talk, quietly. I told her that the bunny was a surprise for her kids…and I was sorry I had accidentally showed it to them before Easter. She was delighted and the kids would be crazy happy about it. I walked around the corner to the front of the house and she met me at the front door. I handed over the bunny and she kissed me on the cheek. This was going to be a good Easter for that family and for me, too.
Certainly, this story pales in comparison to that first Easter morning, over 2000 years ago in ancient Jerusalem. Jesus’ resurrection is a world apart from the gift of a large Easter bunny carrying a basket full of treats. But, both represent NEW LIFE…A LIFE RESTORED. Jesus’ death and resurrection provided ALL PEOPLE a share of paradise. The gift of that bunny and basket of treats provided a life restored for that family, especially the kids and it gave me a life renewed…I felt wonderful and a new meaning of Easter had taken hold of me and right where it matters most…right in my heart!
My friends, Easter is that rare and glorious event, and the very heart of our faith that affords us the gift of life: RENEWED AND RESTORED. We in turn are called to be an Easter event to others, to provide hope, peace and joy to those who are without, to those who are searching, to those who are lonely and alone. Easter becomes a verb, if you will; an action, an event and not just a day on the calendar. We are called to put our faith into action and this sacred feast is a reminder of that call, that commandment, that mandate to serve our sisters and brothers, to help build the Kingdom of God right here and right now. Easter is our reminder of what we believe and what our baptismal promises require of us. A life time commitment, a guarantee of new life and a life renewed in the world yet to come.
God bless us all, today and every day and let us all be Easter to one another…sharing our happiness and joy with any and all as we rejoice in the New Life that has been given to us. Happy Easter and may the Full Peace of Christ Shine Brightly now and always and we in turn, be light to others and a beacon of hope, peace and love.