The Long Lent of 2020 (Easter Message)

Fr. Joel Church meets World

Lent caught me by surprise this year. I didn’t have a chance to think up something new to give up, so I just resolved to keep up some good practices I had recently begun. Little did I know just how much we would all be giving up for Lent: going out to eat, barber shops, nail salons, dinner with friends and ‘play dates,’ watching sports, playing sports, hugs and handshakes, school, church, going to work, a family Easter meal, seeing your grandkids…. This has been, “The lentiest of Lents,” as Kristin Bird said. The word quarantine actually means “40 days”. It was a forty-day isolation imposed on ships when they sailed into port and were suspected of carrying disease. We have yet to see the light at the end of the quarantine tunnel. We are, in a sense, trying to celebrate Easter while still experiencing Lent.

Easter began as a celebration of spring time and new life, in particular the start of the lambing season. After the Exodus from Egypt, it became for the Jews a very particular celebration of life after slavery. God had sent them a hero to lead them into the Promised Land. In Christ, this season of new life becomes the ultimate victory over sin and death. “Christ is Risen” means something much deeper and more profound than, “Happy Easter.” Every Easter for many centuries, Chritians have sung this hymn:

Christians to the Paschal Victim offer your thankful praises! A Lamb the sheep redeems; Christ, who only is sinless, reconcilies sinners to the Father. Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous. The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal. Speak, Mary, declaring, what you saw, wayfaring. “The tomb of Christ, who is living, the glory of Jesus’ resurrection; bright angels attesting, the shroud and napkin resting. Yes, Christ my hope is arisen; to Galilee he goes before you.” Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining. Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning! Amen. Alleluia.

Could this disease that has spread throughout the world be an invitation to us to turn from death to New Life in Christ?  There is something about the coronavirus that is very much like sin. It spreads invisibly from person to person, it forces us to separate ourselves from others, and if left untreated it can lead ultimately to death. Jesus is the “divine physician,” who wants to heal your soul. He took the disease upon himself and sacrificed his life for yours. He rose again from death, and his blood became the antidote, his life became the cure for death. Jesus wants you to experience new life in Him. Even though you cannot attend Mass on Easter Sunday, know that the Risen Jesus is with you right now. Turn to him and ask forgiveness for the ways you have contributed to the spread of sin in our world. Welcome him into your heart. Ask the Risen Jesus to fill you with his love, his peace, and his hope. You will find that the joy of Easter is something much deeper than a family meal, a trip to church, or a basket of candy. It is the joy of knowing that I am loved no matter what, that nothing can separate me from God’s love, and that an eternal Easter awaits me in Heaven. Even Easters on earth are like Lent compared to the true Easter of Heaven. Know that Jesus walks with us and has never left you. No matter how long Lent continues, it can be Easter in your soul!

Peace and Easter joy,
Fr. Joel