Easter is not a wide-eyed bunny bringing you a basket of chocolate. Easter is a person, particularly a man who died in agony, who breaks through the rock wall of death and brings new light to the world. Easter comes to break open the tomb we have made of our hearts. Whoever said that the spiritual life was supposed to be warm and peaceful all the time or just a pleasant day in church with our friends? Most often the metaphors used for spiritual living are those of struggle and battle. St. Michael does not befriend Lucifer with a bro-hug and go get beers after a game of laser-tag. No, he drives a spear through his heart and casts him into the outer darkness. God does not throw his arms around Jonah and say, “Listen bud, I know you’ve had a rough time and you’re feeling scared but I’d really appreciate it if you’d go talk to those folks in Nineveh.” No, God sends the Leviathan, the most frightening beast the ancient Israelites could imagine, to devour him until he came to his senses. Even in the story of the Prodigal, the elderly father cannot welcome his son back until the latter has been crushed by defeat and humiliation.
Christ’s command to us was not to take up our iPods and binge on Netflix. He said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Lk 9:23) Right now we take up the cross in celebration. The cross has become our sign of victory over death once and for all. Of course we all will die. But that death need not hold sway over our hearts nor cast shadows on our souls. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain,” St. Paul said to the Philippians (Phil 1:21). Now is the time to live both the cross and the resurrection. A joyful struggle unto eternal life and lasting peace.
St. Francis always counseled his brothers to be joyful in everything they did. If you fast, do so with joy. If you find yourself thrown into homeschool with your kids, teach them with joy. If you have to put on a mask and tend the suffering and dying, let joy surround you. That is the Easter gift which is beyond measure and it is the greatest weapon against sin and evil. Undoubtedly the life of the spirit is one of struggle but we are not alone, our most intimate friend stands beside us. He hears the beating of our hearts and speaks counsel to our souls. And in this contest he has given us the mighty weapon, joy forged in the hope of life eternal.