Blessed Eastertide! Christ is Risen!
For Christians, Easter is celebrated for more than one day. Eastertide is a season which begins on Easter and lasts for fifty days until Pentecost. It is a time of joy during which we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the new life which Jesus’ death and resurrection brings.
In many of our churches, it is the liturgical practice to light a large Paschal Candle at the earliest worship service of Easter. This candle represents Christ’s resurrection and presence among us; it is a sign of the Light of Christ banishing darkness and death. The Paschal Candle remains lighted during the fifty days of Eastertide and is also used at baptisms and funerals – the beginning and end of life. When we present a candle, lighted from the light of the Paschal Candle, to the newly baptized, we hear the words: “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” These words remind us that the baptized are to embody the light of Christ and continue his mission in the world!
The gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter takes place on that first Easter Sunday evening: When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had been gathered were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” And saying this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they perceived it was the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has commissioned me, so I am sending you” (John 20:19-21).
This Scripture reading tells us how the disciples had fearfully locked themselves away. We can identify with them; we know the fears of life which threaten to paralyze us: fear of war, violence, scarcity, chronic pain, and terminal disease. Fear can trap us and, while fear may keep things out, it also keeps us in.
Nevertheless, Jesus passes through those locked up places in our hearts and comes to us even in our fear, just as he passed through those locked doors and came to the disciples. The wounds which Jesus shows them, and us, remind us that he knows our pain and gave himself for us. Knowing that this was Jesus, their Lord and Master, who was present with them, caused the disciples to rejoice! We, too, rejoice in the resurrection and presence of Christ among us!
When Jesus came to the disciples, he didn’t bless them in their fear; instead, he gave them that healing peace which surpasses all understanding and sent them on a mission which he connects to the mission that he himself received from God. Jesus sends us out, too! He empowers us to leave our locked-up selves and proclaim his presence to a fearful world. We are to make Jesus known, as Jesus made the Father known. We are called to be more than bearers of a message. We are called to embody the revelation of Christ to others and to do what Jesus did: proclaim God’s grace and forgiveness to everyone. Jesus, the Light, sends us to be lights in a dark world.
During this Eastertide, I pray that you may hear the call of Jesus sending you, as he sent the disciples on that first Easter evening. And I pray that many others will also hear Jesus’ call to be his disciples and become leaders sent to serve in Christ’s name in the church and in the world.
I also encourage you to join me and the Conference of Bishops as “we call our worshiping communities to pray for raising up leaders for this church. We ask that the petitions of every worship service include a plea that new lay leaders, deacons and pastors be identified, invited, encouraged and supported in responding to God’s call to ministry.” To that end, I invite you to include the following petition in your personal prayers and each week in the congregation:
Gracious God, we thank you for making your love known in Jesus Christ and giving us new life through our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. Raise up, we pray, from among the baptized: pastors to preach your word and administer your sacraments; deacons to serve all people and bear your gospel to the world; and congregational leaders to bring vision and vitality to your people. Bless your church with an abundance of leaders. And grant us the grace to hear your call, identify others in our midst that you are calling, and the wisdom and courage to nurture and support all who are discerning your call to leadership in the church. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.