Amid the general cynicism about ritual and tradition, the suspicion of religion and the stigma attached to practice, embedded in the flow of social change and ubiquitous presence of media and technology, the celebration of Easter opens a deeper truth. It is, in many ways, the celebration of humanity in all its imperfections and flaws. It is the deeper message that the Divine Embrace recognizes exactly who we are and extends embrace anyway. Unconditional love actually defies description in human terms, but Easter is so much more than that.
Easter is beyond where we are and yet the promise of the chance to become better, to be more, as unique individuals charting a path of choices and navigating ethics, morals and culture, economic structures and concepts of justice and equality. Easter is what makes the effort to journey worthwhile. And the sacraments are the instruments that can, if allowed, provide support and assistance, strength and courage, hope and consolation, along the way.
There is the tenderness of the Eucharist, the very participation in a gift borne of love and presence, preserved and shared through generations and centuries, knitting individuals into a tapestry where the moments of human experience gain context and individuals gain perspective. That simple act of receiving a tiny piece of bread, a host, is full of meaning. Each of us is only one of many; each of us is simply one part of a much greater whole. Each of us is born and lives, and each of us needs the Bread of Life to survive. The Eucharist is that gift that says to us, even in a world that explains everything through science, that understanding and perspective matter. Each of us matters. And “us” matters. The bitterness and diatribes of contemporary life confront a compassionate presence in the reality of the Eucharist.
There is Reconciliation, that pause that encourages self-encounter, truthfulness, and fortitude. There is no magic formula or solutions, but there is the idea of self-awareness, responsibility for decisions and choices, and the need to open the most difficult parts of life to another’s eyes. The blessing, the absolution, is neither cure nor courtesy: it is the congratulations on coming so far, and the chance to go further, do better, become more. It is the promise that no one needs to walk that journey alone. And becoming better or more self-aware as one person enhances the whole.
There is the Sacrament of the Sick, the blending of these in such powerfully vulnerable moments in life, where the vitality of human life is yielding to the ultimate loss. Where the unknown is standing just on the edge of what has been so familiar and the agony of loss is about to be explored. Where as humans who seek achievement and purpose the thought of no longer existing must be confronted. Again, it is not about miracles as much as it is about comfort and resolution, courage and confidence…and so the oil, the Sign of the Cross…..the reassurance.
This Lent was not only about the conflicts that characterize political and social debate, of the brokenness of humanity. This Lent tendered the unique genius of the sacraments, revealed the compassionate presence of God through one another, and affirmed the truth that to be human is to be both needy and gifted, to need others and to need to be a gift to others as well. This Lent made Catholicism more Home.