By John Rieping | All rights reserved | Previously published 4/16/12 in The Madera Tribune
Users of the online messaging system Twitter provided plenty of seasonal humor a week ago… or at least the jokes died trying. Tom Jamieson tweeted, “Typo in the cast list meant I rather spoilt our local Church’s performance of The Passion (of Jesus) with my swashbuckling turn as Pontius Pirate.”
Keir Shiels punned, “At least you were in the right place. I turned up in the gym for Pontius Pilates.”
Pete Sinclair noted the popularity of the “R.I.P. Jesus Christ” tweet on Good Friday and remarked, “You’re all going to look pretty silly in three days time…”
That flood of wit is now a trickle, such as comedian Jack Black joking Wednesday, “Every Easter, I’m like ‘Uhhh, spoiler alert! Some of us haven’t finished the Bible yet!’”
A more common tweet this week is disappointment or surprise that Easter is already past. Such a lament superficially fits. Stores and media have moved on to marketing other events, and discounted Easter sweets are disappearing. The Easter holiday or spring break has finished and life as usual resumes for most.
Nonetheless it isn’t so. Lent may be 40 days, but traditionally the Easter season tops it with 50 and extends from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday.
Why so long a celebration? Quite simply: Easter is the peak of the Christian year and of all history as well. Despite the hype, Christmas can’t compare. There simply is no greater mystery or festivity for those who believe God incarnate died and rose again for the sake of us all.
In paragraph 654, the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “By his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life.” That life is one empowered by the help of God, grace, to share in divine love, goodness, truth, and beauty.
Isn’t that a universal dream? Which one of us aspires to be ugly or unappreciated? Who prefers to be deceived or ignorant? Who among us does not hunger for true love? Or to be a hero?
Moreover, Christians believe the risen Jesus is a trailblazer for those who follow after. His resurrection is the source and principle of our own awaited reconstitution in the flesh at the end of history. His glorious revival will be our own.
His was no mere return to earthly life like that of Lazarus and others restored from death only to later perish. After the resurrection, Jesus had no difficulty, for example, leaving a sealed tomb or entering by a locked door despite having a genuine physical body. He was able to appear and depart suddenly, walk on water, and rise into the air. Yet, no ghost, he ate when he wished.
In short, his body and ours will be in complete harmony with our spiritual souls. No longer will our spirits be hobbled by our bodies.
Furthermore our souls will no longer be hidden by our bodies. As in Jesus’ transfiguration on Mount Tabor (Matthew 17:2), the loveliness of our spirits will be seen in our bodies as if through a window. “The just shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Mat. 13:43)
Let us rejoice!
Englishman Maurice Baring (1874-1945) reported on the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) firsthand for the London Morning Post. A few years later, the longtime agnostic became a Catholic — “the only action in my life which I am quite certain I have never regretted.” He served in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I, and would write plays, poetry, articles, and novels.
Baring had an immense sense of humor and loved practical jokes. But in his last 15 years of life he suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, which initially causes movement-related difficulties but eventually causes other problems and can lead to death. He wrote the following poem in 1937.
“My body is a broken toy / Which nobody can mend / Unfit for either play or ploy / My body is a broken toy; / But all things end. / The siege of Troy / Came one day to an end. / My body is a broken toy / Which nobody can mend.”
Four years after, however, he wrote a second verse.
“My soul is an immortal toy / Which nobody can mar, / An instrument of praise and joy; / My soul is an immortal toy; / Though rusted from the world’s alloy / It glitters like a star; / My soul is an immortal toy / Which nobody can mar.”