Today we are three weeks into the Easter season. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter reminds his audience in the temple that they “had put to death the author of Life,” but that “God had raised him from the dead.” He then invites them to “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.” The writer of the First Letter of John reminds us that Christ, the righteous one, is “expiation for the sins of the whole world.” Sins? Repent? Be converted? Sins wiped away? Aren’t these words we hear during Lent? Even in the Gospel the themes of right living are continued.
Yet, the continuation of these themes remind us that Lent and Easter do not exist apart. These two seasons, along with the three days of Triduum, make an integral whole which we call the “Paschal Cycle.”
In the Gospel, Jesus comes and stands in the midst of his disciples. At first they are terrified, thinking he is a ghost. After he shows them his wounds and allows them to touch him they realize that is truly their beloved rabbi who stands with them, alive and in the flesh. They are amazed and “incredulous for joy.” And yet, three weeks into this joyous Easter season, as we remember the times that Jesus appeared to his followers after his resurrection, do we feel the joy and exuberance we experienced on Easter Day? Probably not on our own. We need help.
It is not only the Scriptures that feed a sense of joy in us. The exuberant music, filled with Alleluias, and environment in the church keep the joy of the season before us. An abundance of flowers is probably still present this week. Just as the natural world is filled with blossoms and new life, we attempt to echo the new life in nature inside the church. The whole 50 days of Easter are celebrated as “one great Sunday.”
To do so is a challenge for us who live in a culture that tends to collapse celebrations into a few days and then move on to the next. It is also a challenge for those who decorate the church. To be committed to a 50-day, full-blown celebration is a hard undertaking. It means that for eight weeks constant attention is needed to replace dying blooms with new and to water potted plants. From the scarcity of Lent, through the abundance of flowers, to the culmination of the Paschal season with red flowers for Pentecost, one-quarter of a year’s time, we rest in the remembrance of God’s mercy, which is ever-forgiving, ever-present, ever showered in abundance on God’s people.
Johnston, director of worship at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Manitowoc, teaches a class on liturgy and prayer for the diocesan Commissioned Ministry Program.