Driving down the road one day with my family, we passed by a dead rabbit on the side of the road. At that moment an interior struggle entered my soul, one which every dad surely understands. “Lord, make me less stupid,” I begged, before adding, “but not yet…”
Alas, as a fulfilment to my weak inner battle, I spoke the inevitable comment to my kids: “Oh no! The Easter Bunny got run over!”
Not missing a beat, one of my young sons wryly countered, “That’s ok. He’ll rise from the dead at Easter.”
It was a proud dad moment to be sure. But wit aside, he alluded to a seemingly unknown fact, that is, Easter is about Christ rising from the dead. He made it seem so simple to understand – “from the mouths of children.”
Yet, Easter is anything but understood today. I asked my students at the public school where I teach what they thought Easter was. However, I totally befuddled them by first stating it wasn’t actually a created holiday so that a bunny could hide cheap chocolate. Utter confusion followed. The closest response I received was, “Is it when Jesus was born?”
Not just youth either, but it seems all ages struggle to understand Easter. The cashier at the grocery store asked me, on a fine Holy Saturday, how my Easter had been. I guess I didn’t appear too shriveled up by fasting at that point. As I tried telling her that I would know better when Easter actually arrived, she seemed surprised, saying that her family always does Easter – whatever “does Easter” means – on Good Friday.
How could she know any better? The protestant church two blocks away held their Easter egg hunt on Palm Sunday. Meanwhile, Good Friday is the day where every year at a nearby Catholic parish the “Hospitality Minister” (don’t ask) greets everyone with a resounding, “Happy Easter!” All this despite the fact that, as more than a few priests have preached at Easter time, all the world needs to do is see our light shining so brightly and they will believe the Easter message, for “we are an Easter People!”
It seems our light needs some kindling – possibly a dousing of gasoline as well.
No, the secular world does not understand, nor care, about Easter, and I argue that many Christians are following suit. This can be discouraging for those of us who do seek to live the liturgical realities of Lent and Easter. We fast and pray intensely for forty days and then, when the great moment of rejoicing arrives, see a wave of indifference towards Easter.
However, regardless of the indifference towards Easter, the great feast is not some external consolation to be sought either. That sounds obvious, but perhaps is harder to embrace. It took a series of unfortunate events a few years ago for me to begin realizing this – “The burned hand teaches best,” says Tolkien. Well it was one of those “burned hand” times for my family, as every family surely must at times endure.
It began during Holy Week with the realization that a miscarriage was happening. Not just a miscarriage, but of twins. The doctor told us to wait and, if all went well, let nature take its course. As Holy Week went on, we grew anxious. We wanted so much to celebrate a joyful Easter Sunday to help balance our sorrow. Perhaps stubbornly, that Holy Saturday we all piled into the van to drive 2.5 hours to escape. We were to travel to a hotel in the city, relax, and then attend a beautiful traditional Latin Mass early on Easter Sunday. However, a snowstorm broke out. An hour into the drive we knew we needed to turn around and go home. Heartbroken, we made it back safely, but with crushed spirits. To add insult, our hotel would not reimburse us for missing our stay.
The following morning, we warily made our way to a nearby parish. It was what I call an all-timer Mass. That is, it was one of the all-time worst Masses I have ever attended (and that is saying something). It was all noise, running, chatter, and narcissism. It was hell to endure. Shellshocked, we drove home devastated. No blasting of Jesus Christ is Risen Today could shake the feeling. We sought consolation but were handed a cross. We asked for a bouquet of roses but received a mound of bricks. Would this horror ever end?
Not even close. Later that week, “The Broncos’ Crash” happened. Just a few miles from our house a bus carrying an entire junior hockey team (16-20-year-olds) was blind-sided by a distracted semi driver. Sixteen people died. There was carnage everywhere. It was undoubtedly the darkest moment in my province’s history. Many people we know were involved. To this day people in our area suffer PTSD from the slightest mention of the crash. And it was amid the hazy days following the crash that my wife needed to be taken to the city for a D&C. What a sad time that was. We were beaten down. Where was the Easter joy? That Eastertide with Joy was Slight.
Undoubtedly, the ups and downs of life do not cease just because it is Easter time. Some years Easter is celebrated in a family survival-mode. Other years everything is glorious. Still other Easters happen amidst lockdowns. This year my family and I were blessed to attend a traditional Latin Mass on Easter Sunday, our first TLM in six months. Tears flowed. We then visited my parents, with my mom fighting back tears of anger as she recounted how the utterly banal Lord of the Dance was played for a closing song at their Mass. To which, again, an interior battle began: “Lord, make me less stupid,” I prayed, “and it better be right now,” as I fought the urge to sing to her, “Dance, then, wherever you may be…”
There is a simple lesson in all of this. In this life, Easter does not remove our cross, nor is it simply an emotional consolation. It is something deeper — always deeper — for Christ is never satisfied with a restrained love. Easter shows us, and opens the majestic doors to, our heavenly home, our eternal consolation. In Easter we gaze at our broken world, heave a mingled sigh of hurt and longing, yet joyfully anticipate the life-giving promise, “Behold I make all things new.” (Rev. 21:5)
I end simply with a picture. This Easter Sunday, driving home with my family past the site of the bus crash, we were greeted with a most glorious sunset. The picture speaks not of consolation, but of the cross, death, and a promise of eternal joy. “If you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are on earth.” (Col 3:1-2)
Dan Millette is a husband and father of four. He teaches in Saskatchewan, Canada. Millette is a graduate from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Ontario and has a Master of Arts degree in theology from Holy Apostles College in Connecticut. His personal blog is www.bravestthing.com.