A sign in a candy store window catches my attention: “Nothing says ‘Easter’ like a chocolate bunny.”
Well, not exactly true, at least for people of faith, for whom there is something more to Easter. Think of it as the boundless joy of the risen Jesus. Truly: Jesus rises!
If you look up the word “rise,” the definitions all apply to Easter. To rise is to move from a lower position to a higher one, and Jesus, being God, certainly does that on Easter. It means to get up from lying, sitting or kneeling, and Jesus does more than that: He rises from the tomb. To rise is to ascend, levitate, climb, leap, skyrocket, upsurge, escalate, spring up; and if we stick with Jesus, we too will do all of these things.
We may learn as children that Jesus became one of us to bring us to the happiness of everlasting life with God when we die. We perhaps learn, as adults, that Jesus suffered and died as a fully human man to be in solidarity with us, so that we might know, in our own particular suffering on this green earth, that we are never alone.
As adults, though, we struggle with the reasons for suffering and tragedy and pain — we have all asked, in times of sorrow: Why does God allow these terrible things to happen to people? — but our wisest answer is that we cannot know. We only know that Jesus knows what we’re going through, that he totally gets it; and that along with him, God does not abandon us, ever.
It occurs to me, however, that another lesson of the Easter season, what we glean from retelling and reliving the story of the passion and crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, is that just as Jesus teaches us how to die, he also teaches us how to rise.
This kind of rising happens before we die. Before our final rising to what lies beyond, we rise in many smaller ways as we travel our unique road of life. The holy season of Easter reminds us each year of God’s promise to raise us up. Our yearly celebration of Easter renews us and reignites our faith and restores our hope. But maybe it is in our daily risings that we best grasp the joy of God’s constant presence and grace.
We use the expression “to rise to the occasion” when someone behaves commendably and nobly, when we see the best that humanity can be. Our daily risings, in contrast, often seem neither saintly nor glorious, but they connect us all the same to the sacred.
When we parents bite back harsh words and instead show a calm face of love to our children, is that not a kind of resurrection?
When we go to Subway and buy some character hanging around outside a sandwich, and offer it without cringing, we rise.
When we swallow our fear and speak up on behalf of someone treated unjustly, we rise.
Anytime we put our own comfort second to another’s, we rise. Those corporal works of mercy, the things we do for the least among us, the ones enumerated in Matthew 25, the feeding, the sheltering, the clothing, the visiting, the welcoming, are all small lessons in resurrection.
When we breathe a simple thank you to God for a beautiful warm day or the last piece of pie or a child’s trust or a co-worker’s help or a spouse’s kiss or any of the thousand blessings we experience in a normal day, we rise. And with each tiny resurrection, we are transformed with joy. How could we not be?
The sun rises, the moon rises, the sea rises, the wind rises. Rise and shine, we say in greeting the morning. May the road rise to meet you, say the Irish.
Jesus rises on Easter, and with him as our brother, we rise, too. Let us therefore embrace the grace of our daily risings, and pass on the joy of Easter to our children and to everyone whose lives we touch.
And may we make the acquaintance of at least one chocolate bunny on this day from God.