I have to be honest. This year it felt like Easter came and went in a whirlwind. Some days I wake up, travel to work, sit at my desk and say, “Wait, Easter happened already?” It seems like a dream.
This year was a unique one (please, God!) in my experience of ministry. Last spring our youth minister took a position at another parish, and we were unable to fill the position despite offering it multiple times. Unwilling to hire someone unqualified for the position, we set about covering the needs of youth faith formation with our existing staff. I took High School, our DRE took Middle School, our pastor filled in lots of holes here and there, many parishioners stepped up and helped us cover the empty position, a friend of mine from college lent a hand to lead the Sunday high school sessions.
Even with much ready help, it was a draining experience. My mind has been pulled in a thousand-and-one ways trying to keep on track of my own responsibilities as well as prepare a whole crop of teenagers for Confirmation. (Plus, I just don’t think I was made for youth ministry!)
So mid-March, I found myself scrambling to get everything ready for Easter and then it came and went (pretty smoothly, I’d say) in a flash.
Now, a couple of weeks into the Easter season, I find myself asking, “What does it mean to me that Easter happened? How is it not just a flash in my memory but a reality in my life?”
This is the Easter reading which has stayed with me most clearly:
Brothers and sisters:
Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.
For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his,
we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.
We know that our old self was crucified with him,
so that our sinful body might be done away with,
that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.
For a dead person has been absolved from sin.
If, then, we have died with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with him.
We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more;
death no longer has power over him.
As to his death, he died to sin once and for all;
as to his life, he lives for God.
Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin
and living for God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:3-11, New Testament Reading from Easter Vigil Mass
What does it mean to me that Easter happened? Sometimes I place the emphasis on the promise of eternal life and the fact that death will not have the final say in my life.
But this year, I find myself needing to hear a slightly different (not unrelated) message of Easter: I was baptized, thus buried with Christ, so that I “too might live in newness of life”. Having died, as Paul puts it, death and sin no longer have power over me, not just in the long run, but right now.
“As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”
I think back to almost 10 years ago now, when I went on a life-changing retreat and unwrapped the gift of my baptism. That weekend, I welcomed in the power of Easter in my heart. I sat in the upper room with the apostles and Jesus breathed his Spirit on me. I was made new.
When I came home—back to my same campus, back to my same dorm room, back to my same roommates—everything was different. I was different. I saw my life with new eyes. I had new understanding and new priorities. I had completely new joy, love, and enthusiasm for life. When I think back to the interior lives of Andrea the freshman and Andrea the sophomore they are totally different people, all starting on that weekend in fall 2006 when I said yes to Easter in my life.
Still, it’s easy to backtrack. I’ve seen some resurgence of “the old self” in my newly created person. But that’s not me anymore, that old self is not who I am in Christ Jesus. So this Easter, I’m remembering that I must think of myself as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus. It is a thrilling, beautiful, satisfying way to live.
What newness of life will you accept from God this Easter season?