It’s Easter Season! Why do I Feel Like I’m Still in Lent?
Easter is a season of ongoing resurrection. It is a celebration that starts with one glorious morning but cannot be contained in a single day and so we continue to celebrate the Easter Season. We know Lent is 40 days and if you are like me, you feel each and every one. However, we forget that Easter is 50 days, and we are shortchanging ourselves if we are not rejoicing in it!
I know for many, that is easier said than done.
Many of us feel like we are living a continual Lent in this time of the pandemic! It’s true many states are still locked down and many people are still social distancing. It can feel like we’re still in the tomb with Christ, especially for those sheltering in place.
It seems like the world is finally starting to re-open, and in many places, stores, restaurants, churches and activities are, at least partially, back in action. For the world, these are, hopefully, the first rays of dawn on Resurrection Sunday, and the start of returning to life as we know it. Despite this being the case, many people still struggle with fear and stress. It’s hard to feel like an Easter People when we’re still stuck in the pandemic desert. How do we find hope and happiness?
I would humbly suggest that this… is the whole point of the Risen Christ, the one who makes all things new!
It’s good for us to remember that, when Jesus rose from the dead, He didn’t appear in Jerusalem in a flash of lightening, cast down those who put Him to death, overthrow the Roman occupation, and crown Himself king while making His disciples princes and princesses. After His Resurrection, Jesus did not just snap His fingers and right all the wrongs of the world. Instead, He appeared to His believers at key moments and significant times, but He actually changed the physical situation of the Apostles and His closest followers very little. In fact, they generally stayed in the same upper room where they hid when Christ was arrested. In their own way, most of the Apostles “sheltered in place,” with a few notable exceptions such as going to work, when some went fishing and met Christ on the seashore. Other than that, and those disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, His closest followers were “locked down” in their own way until Pentecost, basically the entire Easter Season!
One might wonder: if Christ’s Resurrection changed so little, did it really matter?
The answer is – YES! It transforms everything! It meant that truth was stronger than lies, light overcame darkness, love was more powerful than hate, good triumphed over evil, and life defeated death itself.
The Resurrection of Our Savior meant that no matter what the followers of Jesus were going through, no matter what they faced, no matter what they were suffering – or would suffer – none of it was stronger than the power, goodness, and love of Christ. Even dying was no longer to be feared, because Jesus had won for them the joy of eternal life!
What is more incredible is that Jesus gives that same gift to us! Therefore, whether our world re-opens tomorrow, next week, or next year – even if life is never quite the same again – Jesus will give us the grace to lead blessed lives and bear any cross we may encounter or escape any “tomb” in which we feel trapped. Christ offers new life to whoever loves Him, and for those who take Him up on this gift, He promises Easter after every Lent!
Of course, in the times we live in today, we might not feel “new”; we might feel beaten down and tired instead. We might feel like we’ve been wandering in the desert of Lent with no Easter in sight. This is where faith, true faith, is so necessary, but how do we fuel that fire of faith especially when it feels like the flame is down to a few glowing embers? Perhaps I can help with a few suggestions.
The first is PRAY!
Now, honestly, when someone tells us to pray, it’s easy to roll our eyes and think, “well, of course…” That said, let’s be even more honest with ourselves and think how many times when we’re asked to pray, we never actually do it. Sure, we may say a quick prayer before meals or right before bed or squeeze in the occasional “Hail Mary” or “Our Father,” but we should actively, intentionally set aside time to pray. I know many of us are incredibly busy. With that in mind, start small. Try 10 to 15 minutes. Just that. Set aside that time to get quiet and talk to God, whether that is with traditional prayer or prayers you just speak from the heart.
Now, some of us get easily distracted, or we might feel like traditional prayers are too formal, or as some may feel, too boring. On the other hand, spontaneous prayer can feel like we’re just talking to ourselves. I would strongly recommend the Rosary, because it is a combination of traditional, formal prayer, but it is meant to be said while thinking and meditating on the life of Christ. The “Our Fathers” and “Hail Mary’s” give the prayer structure and an anchor, while we can let our minds dwell, contemplate, and imagine what it would have been like to experience Jesus through the very human person who knew Him best, His Mother, Mary. It’s the perfect combination of memorization, repetition, and imagination. Now, if saying an entire rosary sounds like biting off more than you can chew, start with just one decade. It literally takes 2 to 3 minutes. The rosary uses prayers either taken from, or inspired by, the Bible. While reciting them, we think about Christ, and in a way, spend time with Him. The more time you spend with Jesus, the deeper you allow Him to connect with you, and you open the door to let Him make you, and all things, new!
One more suggestion: pray with your family. If you can’t pray with all of your family, pray with some of your family. If you don’t live with family, pray with a friend. If you are still social distancing, see if you can find a prayer buddy by phone, or even better, by Zoom. Because of the pandemic, many churches and religious organizations have online prayer groups or can point you to one. I know that, before COVID, it could seem impossible to arrange the schedules of everyone in your family. It seems that some modern kids are as busy, if not busier, than their parents. However, one of the effects of the pandemic is that families are spending exponentially more time together. I’m suggesting that you take some of that time, perhaps after dinner or before your turn on that next TV show, and set aside a few minutes to pray as a family. Again, you can start with just one decade of the Rosary. I promise if you change your schedule to include Christ, you will be amazed at the powerful changes He will bring to your home. When my parents tried to get my siblings and me to pray a family Rosary when I was a teenager, we fought the idea, kicking and screaming, but they didn’t give up. Pretty soon, we were praying a full Rosary every night. Not only did we find out that it would take just around 20 minutes - yep, less time than an episode of a Netflix sitcom - but it became a source of true bonding for our family. By giving a little time to God, He helped us find time for everything else. If you are not praying together, currently, really think about family prayer as something new you can do together, in Christ.
My last suggestion to help move past Lent and let Jesus lead you into Easter, is to act like He did and serve. Help Christ renew your heart and mind by helping others. Prayer is a way to spend quality time with God and get to know Him better, but that almost always leads us to spend more time with ourselves. It helps us know our own hearts better. Service is the perfect complement to prayer because it gets us out of ourselves to see the needs of others and do something to make their lives better.
Service puts prayer in action.
But how does this help us experience Easter? In God’s great genius - and in His great sense of humor - when we help others, through God’s grace, we help ourselves. We forget about our own worries, fears, and needs for a time. In addition, by lifting the burden of another, our actions help him or her to be a happier person and frees that person to do good, in turn, to others. Also, just seeing someone else’s joy increases our own. Most importantly, it makes us like Jesus. Jesus died and rose for the salvation of others, to save each and every one of us. As Christ sacrificed Himself as a gift to us, then rose again, we also experience a bit of that same resurrection in our hearts when we sacrifice a little bit of ourselves for others. To be clear, this service can be something simple and it is ideal to start in your own home.
Pray on it but think if there is something someone in your family consistently asks you to do that you find hard to get around to or that you have been putting off. Even better, if it’s a recurring task or request, next time do it before your family member even asks you. If nothing of this nature comes to mind, think if there is something you see your spouse or one of your kids struggles with, especially on a regular basis. Surprise him or her by offering to help with that burden. What if you don’t live with family? Then, lend a hand to your roommate, tenant, or a friend. If you live alone, especially if you are still in lockdown, then think about giving someone a call who would really appreciate it or connect with that person o.-line. You could even go really old-school and send a letter to someone who might be lonely.
This is particularly effective if you feel alone, because think of how much you would appreciate it if you received an unexpected letter from someone just saying “hi.” If you think about – and pray about it – there is probably something you could do, in a COVID safe manner, that would help another.
In God’s great game plan, if we help each other carry our crosses, the sooner and more completely we experience resurrection and the hope, joy, and touch of wonder that brings. It is a little like what the Apostles must have felt when they found the tomb empty that Easter Day.
With this in mind, don’t feel alone if you are still struggling with being stuck in Lent even though we are deep within this Resurrection Season. However, think of little ways you can let Christ help you join in the celebration. I would strongly encourage greater attention to prayer and small, loving acts of service, because these are the things our Savior suggested. That said, do whatever you feel Jesus is asking of you. Please remember that, no matter how much you may feel trapped in the desert, there had to be the cross before there could be salvation. But now the stone is rolled away, and Our Lord is risen. He is ready and waiting to make you, and all things, new.