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Easter illustration

Forty and three and 50: Those are the numbers that make up the days of the Lent-Easter cycle in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church — more or less 90 days in all. Many are familiar with the 40 days of Lent; some are acquainted with the three days of the Sacred Triduum (beginning the evening of Holy Thursday and ending on Easter Sunday); few are aware of the 50 days of the Easter season. Currently, we are in this 50-day Easter season leading up to Pentecost on May 20.

On April 1, those following the Gregorian calendar celebrated Easter Sunday of the resurrection of the Lord. Last Sunday on April 8th, those following the Julian calendar also celebrated Easter Sunday. Greetings such as “Happy Easter” are familiar to “western” Christians; greetings of “Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is risen!” are familiar to “eastern” Christians. These western and eastern greetings originally arose out of a deeply Christian culture. So they are more than an offhand greeting; these greetings represent a world view that springs from the resurrection of Christ.

But what if there were no resurrection? What if Christ had not been raised from the dead? There would be no Christianity. If Christ has not been raised, empty is our faith (see 1 Corinthians 15:14). If we didn’t have Easter and the resurrection, we wouldn’t be Christians. We wouldn’t count the saints as part of our lives. We would mourn death as our tragic, inescapable fate and the mockery of all human achievement. If we didn’t believe in eternal life, our sense of unassailable human dignity would undergo a revision; our moral system would need to be rethought, and the best we might hope for would be the ethics of the great existentialists — some of whom ended their days in suicide.

During these 50 days of the Easter season, we can ask at what level does the resurrection of Christ inhabit the depths of our consciousness, and what difference does it make? Basically, the resurrection invites us to a “transformed understanding of life.” Everything that was certain is changed because death itself is not definitive, and therefore sin had no power and every threat has been eviscerated. “Reality itself is thoroughly different” from what it appears to be because God is working in and through it in ways often beyond our comprehension. It is this sort of faith that leads people to see God’s presence in any and every moment of life. Every birth, every sunrise, every fertile seed reflects the One who gives life in abundance.

Because we believe in the Resurrection, we know that evil and injustice do not have the last word — even here and now. We can relate to others out of a deep understanding that every enmity will be healed. We can live out a patient love of God that rejoices in the faith that God is vaster and far more loving and creative than we. Easter gives us a transformed perception that seeks the meaning of absolutely everything in the light of the resurrection of our crucified Lord.

Easter is all about new light, new hope. Out of death and darkness, Jesus has brought life and light. It is that living Lord, that risen Jesus, whose life all Christians share through baptism. Resurrection is less about reassuring us of heaven after death than about freeing us to live now without fear and being people of hope, because we bear the risen life of the Lord Jesus within.

Opening the Easter festivities with a Tweet to his global flock, Pope Francis said: "Our faith is born on Easter morning: Jesus is alive! The experience is at the heart of the Christian message."

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad!” “Christ is risen! Indeed, he is risen!” A blessed Easter season to all!

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The Rev. Frank E. Lioi is pastor of St. Mary’s Church and SS. Mary & Martha Parish (St. Francis Church and St. Hyacinth Church) in Auburn, and dean of the East Region (Cayuga and Tompkins counties) of the Diocese of Rochester. He can be reached at flioi@dor.org.

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