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Easter

By Dr. Mike Martocchio | Photo By Getty Images/Jozef Polc | April 2022

Easter

We Are a People of Hope

This month we celebrate the highest feast day of the liturgical year. Easter is so important to our self-understanding as Christians that we consider every Sunday, even those during Lent, to be “little Easters.” It is the defining celebration of Christianity. Easter reminds us why we do what we do and who we are as Christians.

Many people have a stereotype of the Christian, and the Catholic in particular, as a somber and bitter individual who is obsessed with guilt and self-punishment. The stereotype focuses simply on the moral and penitential. While a keen sense of right and wrong are key ingredients to a healthy spirituality, this dour image of the Christian is nothing more than bad mimicry.

Contrary to this depiction, our joy-filled hope must define us as Catholic Christians. It gives direction to any of our penitential practices. In Evangelii Gaudium, “the joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis reminds us not to be defined by the caricature of what others think of Christians, but to be enthusiastically driven by the joy of new life given to us in the Resurrection. He points out that “there are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.” Even though our suffering may be very real at times, the Holy Father cautions us not to fall into this temptation (EG 6).

This connection with liturgical seasons is a great image because it reminds us that as important, essential and formative as our Lenten journey is — it is only that. The journey has a destination: Lent always directs us to Easter. The point of our penitential practices, particularly fasting, is to show us that there is something extraordinary toward which our lives are directed, and which is the basis of our hope: the Resurrection.

Although every Sunday is a celebration of the Lord’s day, we experience the Resurrection in a special way during Holy Week. We come to understand ourselves and the faith, first in the contrast of the celebration of Easter and the penitential season of Lent, and second in the remembrance of the Paschal Mystery. It consists of the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, and places his victory over death and the hope that we, as Christians, profess in sharing in that victory at the forefront of our minds.

Christian hope is not naïve. It is a realistic hope — the realistic hope, in fact. One of the mistakes we make in thinking about our hope in the Resurrection is to think that it cancels out death. While we can say that death is defeated by Christ’s resurrection, we can and should also note that death is still very real. Resurrected life is not about forgetting that death happened, but that in the Resurrection is something far greater. It is the transformation of death; it leads to a different reality. No longer an end, death has become a new beginning, because everything Christ touches is transformed. This includes our very humanity and what was once its moment of finality.

Likewise, when we lose loved ones, our faith in the resurrected life does not make that loss any less real. Instead, our Easter faith gives us hope amid the loss because we know that death does not get the last word. It still comes, but it has been transformed: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55).

Holy Week, by placing us in the Paschal Mystery liturgically, reminds us of this hope, something we all need to experience because we are a people of hope. We are a people of the Resurrection.

It can be very easy for us to forget this truth amid the pain and suffering of this life. Easter is the necessary season when it all comes together and makes sense for us. It is the season when we remember that pain and suffering have been taken up by Christ and transformed into something new.

Holy Week celebrations help bring this home to us. We begin the week with Palm or Passion Sunday. The liturgy commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and then moves to recount his passion and death on the cross. We see a similar contrast during the Triduum, when we celebrate the gift of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, leading us once again to remember Christ’s passion and death on Good Friday.

The point in this contrast is not that hope is lost. Loss is transformed into hope through Jesus. The silence of Holy Saturday reminds us that loss is real, yet the light of Christ at the Easter Vigil breaks the darkness of our world and our lives. It tells us that loss has been transformed into victory through his Resurrection.

We commemorate the resurrection not simply as the vindication of Jesus and the affirmation of his divine identity. We commemorate it also because the resurrection of Jesus is the source of our hope.

Easter hope is the hope that defines the Christian faith and life. It is the hope that defines who we are as Catholics. And it is the hope that we are called to share with the rest of the world.


Michael Martocchio, PhD, is the secretary of Evangelization and Catechesis. Email him at mmartocchio@charlestondiocese.org.