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Bible Reflections View Comments

Easter Is Only the Beginning
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, March 31, 2013
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Brides and grooms have said this of their wedding days, when after months and months of planning every perfect detail, they have little recollection of the day itself. Sometimes when we put everything we have into anticipating a great event—planning, preparing, hoping, dreaming—the event itself can sometimes seem almost anticlimactic, as though it couldn’t live up to the hype.

Easter can be a little bit like this. We think of it as one glorious day, the culmination of our Lenten sacrifices. We often think of it as the final scene of a play that begins on Palm Sunday, and so we expect it to be grand finale. We know that we are celebrating the greatest single event in God’s covenant with his people, the triumph over death itself. But somehow we can’t wrap our understanding and emotions around something so intense, so unique, so utterly beyond our own experience.

Ironically, this letdown is almost built into the Easter readings. At the heart of the Easter story is the empty tomb. The stories of the appearances will come later, unfolding the mystery of the resurrection. But the first message to the apostles is that the tomb is empty. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb in the early hours of the morning. John and Peter go together to the tomb but each enters separately. We must do likewise. The first apostles gathered in the Upper Room trying to make sense of what had happened between the Last Supper and that first Easter morning. Our response to our individual conversion is to gather with those who can share that experience.

Throughout the Gospels, the apostles appear in shifting groups or more often as individuals, following Jesus and relying on his leadership to hold them together and settle their disputes. It is only the fear of the crucifixion and then confrontation of the empty tomb that gathers them together into a single group, relying on each other for protection, reassurance and support. The empty tomb compels them to rely on their faith. Together they recall the stories Jesus told of the resurrection, stories they may not have heard or understood because they were preoccupied with their own success and advancement. Alone none of them is able to fully comprehend the experience; together they discover new insights in a shared belief. From Easter to Pentecost, they are most often referred to as the Eleven, a sign that their identity is as a cohesive group rather than a collection of individuals. Like those first disciples, we discover the presence of the Risen Lord by retelling the same stories. We center more on Jesus’s life than on our own.

Any personal experience of the Risen Lord is marked by the command or the impulse to “go and tell the others.” The Christian life is characterized by reaching out to others, sharing the good news of the resurrection, caring for the poor, becoming the healing presence of Christ to those in need.

Just as a wedding day is followed by years of marriage, the day-to-day life of learning to live and love in a committed relationship, so Easter Sunday stretches first to the Easter Octave, then throughout the fifty days of the Easter season and into each expression of the paschal mystery in our weekly Eucharists and in our lives. Easter only marks the beginning of this great adventure.


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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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