By Nancy R. Catan, BCBP Manila
“We are Easter People and Hallelujah is our song.” These words by the late Pope John Paul II express the joy that we experience as we celebrate the miracle of the Resurrection.
Another proclamation that always reverberates in me during this season is: “Lent is a time of loving; Easter is the springtime of the soul.” We experience the love of God as we reflect on the memories of our journey in faith compared to Jesus’ last days on earth. Then we rejoice in the Easter message of the Resurrection that gives us the joyful hope of eternal life.
This Easter Hope enables us to look beyond the past, the present, and even our tomorrows. Hope helps us to look beyond our present difficulties, sorrows, hardships, sufferings, fears, and irritations. Hope challenges us to look beyond the “now” to the reality of heaven and eternity.
The Resurrection Hope is what springtime is all about! Springtime brings the hopeful certainty that summer is on its way. In Vermont, USA, where I spent my childhood years, I would excitedly search out the first wild flowers in our nearby woodland, small fragile blossoms that would poke their heads through a lingering patch of snow. Mom and I would gather lilac branches, bring them indoors, set them in a vase of water, and watch them bud and bloom. We would begin planning our vegetable garden, which seeds we would plant first. We would watch for the first greening of the fields, and for the first little buds on the trees that soon would burst into life forming a leafy canopy over our front yard.
Springtime in Vermont is also mud time. As the snow melts, the earth gets over-saturated with water resulting in several inches to several feet of mud in the dirt paths and roads that have no grass or asphalt cover. Mud is sloppy, slippery, gooshy, and dirty. It makes delightful mudpies for springtime tea parties. The mud also makes wonderful tracks into the house, although the cleaning up is a chore no one likes.
Springtime of the soul! Yes, my soul is full of hope and anticipation of what lies ahead. Yes, my soul is also filled with mud from time to time and needs cleaning up. That’s what the Lenten period is for, to clean up the soul, so I can catch the sunlight and breathe in the fresh clean fragrant air of the Resurrection miracle and the Easter season.
This is a season of renewal, hope, replenishment and expectation. It is a season for fresh new growth. Whatever we are waiting for – joy, peace of mind, contentment, grace, more harmonious relationships, a more fruitful life – these can surely come to us, but only when we are ready to clean out the mud in our life and open heart and mind to the true spirit of springtime.
Here in the Philippines we don’t really have a “spring season” like there is in the temperate climates. Easter Season here usually marks the beginning of the hot tropical summer season. But I still like to embrace a new springtime in my soul. As the spirit of the Easter springtime invades me, my heart sings and my feet dance. Yes, the Easter spirit of springtime is a season of the heart, of the soul. No matter who we are, or where we are, or what our circumstances may be, we can always welcome Easter hope and the springtime of our soul, the season of our heart’s joy!
And it is this Easter spirit and springtime joy that lead us to proclaim that we are Easter people!
“We are an Easter People.” I heard this phrase many years ago during an Easter season homily. The homilist commented that he had observed many people got stuck in the Black Fridays of their lives and so weren’t able to move on to being Easter people. He went on to say that we tended to focus more on our crosses, our difficulties, and our problems than on being aware of the blessings that God through Jesus brings us every day, indeed every hour.
There is much truth to his observation. We are one of the only countries that declares holidays during Holy Week. Growing up in the United States, Holy Week was just another week of work days without any holidays. Yes, there were the church services during Holy Week after office hours but not like here where we have masses, ceremonies, processions, bisita iglesia, 7 Last Words, and other traditional practices.
On Easter Sunday our church was full of flowers, singing and happy people. Family get-togethers usually followed the morning service. Then on Monday it was back to work. I don’t remember any significant difference in our daily life during the Easter season.
What does being an Easter people mean? To me it now means embracing the Resurrected Christ and the joy and the hope that He brings us. It means accepting my crosses as part of my life journey knowing in faith that for every Black Friday there will be an Easter Sunday. It means recognizing His presence and His desire for me to be a better person, to be transformed into His likeness.
If I only dwell on the crosses and problems in my life, I will continue to unhappily live in the past. This attitude can result in bitterness, depression, and the inability to face life’s challenges and opportunities.
However, if I embrace the Easter spirit of a springtime of joy and hope, of faith and new life, even my problems and difficulties, my crosses, become bearable. I am able to smile as I accept life’s ups and downs, trusting that in everything God works for good as long as I love Him and open myself to His plans for me.
We must admit that our lives are affected by the people around us, by the people we meet, by our family and our friends. Likewise, we affect others we come into contact with. If we smile at others, they will smile back at us. If we wear an angry or unhappy face, then those people around us will either be unhappy or angry or avoid us entirely. When we are an Easter people, others will also be encouraged to become Easter people.
I believe that the Easter season, the period from Resurrection Sunday to Pentecost, is a time for us to practice the new life opened to us by the Resurrected Christ. It is a time to welcome the transformation process (from the cross to the joyful and spirit-filled life) in our thoughts, words and actions. It is a time for us to be able to accept our crosses and use them to strengthen us to face life’s challenges to grow stronger and to become truly an Easter people known by the springtime in their soul. It is a time for us to share our joy and our faith with others, following the example of the early disciples. It is a hallelujah time!
Let us all be Easter people, let us dance and sing as we welcome the Resurrected Christ and the springtime in our soul, not only this Easter season but throughout the whole year, this special Year of Faith.