“Do not despair. We are an Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Pope John Paul II (the great)
Sometimes it’s so hard to see the Easter in people. We don’t seem to be able to be nice to each other for one day of the year, much less be ensconced in the joyful life of the Resurrected Christ. Really. I remember the days of the Easter Parade, when families put on their new Easter suits and dresses, bonnets, gloves and new shoes and walked along the lakeside after Mass to take family photos and look at everyone else’s new suits, dresses, bonnets, gloves and new shoes. (Oh, no! Now I’ve got that song stuck in my head, complete with Judy Garland’s voice). This year there was a violent mugging in that same area.
The organ, a.k.a. my office, is at the front of the church, which means that I get the same view of the assembly as the celebrant. At seven o’clock pm every Sunday night our parish has what is affectionately known as, “The Last Chance Mass,” because we have the only Sunday night Mass in the area, which is useful for doctors, nurses, police and those who celebrated a bit too much the night before. On Easter Sunday night I had just finished the Communion hymn and noticed that people were leaving the church in droves, almost literally running for the doors. It’s not written down anywhere, but we think it’s called the first dismissal. They missed the good part, “Go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!” They didn’t seem to care that they were missing the good part. They wanted to bolt out of the parking lot to get home in time to watch “Dancing with the Stars” or whatever. The Easter People had just received the Son of God, yet the host hadn’t even cleared their esophagus before they started reaching for their cell phones. And it wasn’t just kids. Even the senior citizens leaning on their walkers got into a foot race trying to be the first ones out of the Church doors. Have we become so accustomed to receiving the Risen Christ that it means nothing to us?
I can imagine how Jesus felt when he was trying to explain how he is the Bread of Life who will sacrifice his own life for his people while watching many of his disciples check their watches and head for the exits. It’s pretty darn hard to be an Easter people. Catholics who completely buy into the faith have to be a bit cracked. After all, we talk to bread.
At the Easter Vigil I watched four courageous people who, of their own volition and desire, became members of the Holy Catholic Church. They bent over the font and willingly accepted the water that was poured on their foreheads. It couldn’t have been an easy choice to make. They must have thought deeply and sincerely about what they were getting into. After all, Catholics are disliked and mistrusted by a lot of people. There are still many people who can’t get past the idea that we talk to bread, pray the Hail Mary and won’t budge on the issue of birth control in spite of the fact that they have poll results that say that the majority people are in favor of it. Personally, polls mean nothing to me. After all, Jesus was crucified after Pilate took a poll and found that the majority of the people in the crowd were in favor of crucifixion.
One of my favorite quotes from Bishop Fulton Sheen is, “There are not over a 100 people in the U.S. that hate the Catholic Church, there are millions however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church. Which is, of course, quite a different thing.” In other words, most people don’t really understand us, and many of those who are us don’t understand us, which makes the Easter people thing a bit more difficult to communicate.
Pope John Paul II said, “Do not despair,” so I won’t. Alleluia!