These days just explode with joy and festivities. Our week-long celebrations, rooted in the truth of the resurrection and redemption promised by the crucifixion, give us much to ponder. Christ has triumphed over death, and heaven becomes our inheritance. It is fitting that after forty days of longing, we now take time to celebrate.
Yet there is no denying that a great many (dare I say all) of us still have our crosses, our unresolved brokenness, the heavy weight of loss, and maybe even despair.
Easter does not take that away.
It was never meant to.
Allow me to tell you what Easter is not. It is not a hallmark-perfect day where no child is grumpy and no parent loses their temper. Where every family member of every family on the face of the earth is reunited in perfect love and harmony, and every friendship and every relationship is repaired, never to be torn asunder again. Easter is NOT that.
Just because we may (or may not—eeek) have fulfilled all of our Lenten promises of sacrifices and penance doesn’t mean that come Easter Sunday our struggles and sufferings automatically and magically disappear. It’s not a prize for a performance. There is no judge and jury here.
Even the disciples, the closest friends of Christ, experienced the joy of Easter for just a brief period of time before the pain of separation took hold again.
Instead, this is what Easter is. It is you and I, stumbling towards the tomb, battle-worn and weary, hoping against hope. We meet the risen Christ crucified, and we see that the marks on his body, his scars, are still present. The joy is that we’ve both made it—and are continuing to make it—through this vale of tears. His passion is our passion, and we can finally see that our scars are also his. This broken Christ is our victory. He has risen and goes before us, taking our scars and pain and showing us how to carry them. He does not take them away from us, for he knows that they are our paths of sanctified grace, just as his cross is our redemption.
Easter is not just some candy-coated superficial day of being happy. It is a deep hope, a hard-won joy. It is the showcasing of scars and the pouring out of life-healing balm for our wounds. It is the reality of the opening of the gates of Heaven, and the knowledge that the gates of Hell will not ever prevail.
It is bowed down grief, giving rise to inexplicable Alleluias—the only real guarantee of Easter.