By Greg Erlandson - OSV Newsweekly
Wouldn't it be great if we made Easter resolutions similar to our Lenten resolutions?
For 40 days we have fasted and prayed and abstained and offered up. Now the "Great Day" has arrived, and after showing off our new clothes, searching for eggs and enjoying a good meal, Easter feels over.
In the Church's mind, of course, it is anything but over. Our 40 days of fasting should be matched by 40 days of rejoicing. But it is difficult when we are so used to taking our cues from popular culture. After all, most of us can barely acknowledge the 12 Days of Christmas because we feel like we've been planning for the Dec. 25 gift orgy since Halloween.
Easter is even worse. The chocolates get discounted Easter morning, and the summer specials move in to replace the talking bunnies and the endless cheesy variations on the egg theme. We all go back to work or school the next morning, and our culture of commerce is already looking forward to the Memorial Day weekend.
So what if we made Easter resolutions to keep ourselves mindful of the celebration that we should be continuing? What if we found ways to be joyful, and to share our happiness that Jesus is truly risen?
What if we made sure that for each Sunday for the next six weeks we have a special treat to commemorate this event? I'd call it "reverse abstinence": A special cake for each Sunday. A special bottle of wine. A special recipe.
What if the only thing we gave up was frowning and grousing? For six weeks, we would act exceptionally joyful, even when we didn't feel like it. And we'd share this joy with others: Write a letter. Visit a sick or lonely person. Put on Christ so that he could be more easily seen by others.
We could continue this until Ascension Sunday, and for those of us who want extra spiritual credits, we might even continue until Pentecost.
If Lenten resolutions are a great sign of contradiction to the whims and wants of popular culture, 40 days of Easter resolutions would be even more so.
I will confess that I am particularly grateful when Easter Sunday arrives, because then religion can go back to being ignored by the press. The secular news media in the past several years have felt compelled to run religious-themed stories during the pre-Easter build up.
Because the editors and producers and other folk who generally control what makes it into print or on the air are uncomfortable with this self-imposed obligation, they soothe their secular souls by invariably adding some note of controversy.
My favorite inappropriate story this year was aired by National Public Radio on Easter Sunday morning. As I drove home from church with the kids, I heard a story about a former Christian missionary who lost his faith when he encountered an obscure Brazilian tribe who insisted on empirical evidence that Christ had risen from the grave. Unable to answer their queries, the missionary dumped his faith and became a linguistics professor. Call this a reverse conversion story.
During Holy Week, USA Today ran a glowing tribute to the Protestant theologian Marcus Borg, who has made a career of dismissing orthodox understandings of Christ.
And, of course, Lent began with the "news" that the tomb of the Jesus family had been found: Mr. Jesus, Mrs. Jesus and one little Judah Jesus.
Unfortunately, the news media are really not so different from that Brazilian tribe: It cannot trust what it cannot see.
Which brings me back to the 40 days of Easter joy. For with it, we become the visible evidence of that which cannot be seen. Christians change lives when they show how they have been changed: How they have stopped living for themselves, and started living joyfully for others in Christ's name.
Greg Erlandson is the president and publisher of OSV.
Please note: Comments left online may be considered for publication in the Letters to the Editor section of OSV Newsweekly.
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