With Holy Week and the Triduum just around the corner, I have been thinking about how quickly we set the Easter Season aside and get on with “ordinary” time even when the Church continues the 50 days of celebration. What’s really sad is that we are called to be Easter people all year round. And we just don’t seem to get it. I mean, Resurrection has happened, we are redeemed, Jesus showed us love conquers hate, light conquers dark, and grace conquers sin. We should be shouting “Alleluia!”
I have decided to try really hard to be an Easter person for as long as I possibly can. So here is my “Top 13 List” of how I am going to try to live Easter every day.
- Keep Jesus at the center. I want to thank him every day for the greatest act of love the world has ever seen. I want to fall deeper in love with him. I want to talk to him about every awful, funny, wonderful, crazy, miserable or tender moment of my day, knowing he will get it. I might even start each day by looking in the mirror (a true act of mortification if ever there was one) and say OUT LOUD, “Jesus loves me. I am created in God’s image. The Holy Spirit lives in me.”
- Laugh often. That old song from the 70’s (I think it was that decade, but maybe not) which laments being out of synch with the world always bugged me. “I started to cry, which started the whole world laughing.” How unpleasant! I want to laugh for the sheer joy of living. I want to laugh because sometimes the only alternative is crying. I want to laugh because, as Pope Francis said, no one is attracted to a sour puss. And I want to laugh because it is one of the most delightfully contagious actions in the world.
- Exercise my Catholic imagination. I want to imagine what it means to be a saint, or at least a missionary disciple. I want to dream of a world in which the Kingdom of God is a reality. It would be great if I could enter more deeply into the rituals and symbols of my faith, especially in the Eucharist and Reconciliation. I want to radiate Catholicism in all the best ways, to give and receive love and hope and justice and service and mercy.
- Talk to my family. I want to email, text, or call one person in my family every day. I miss them, I’m the only one living in Omaha, and I want to feel more connected to them. I don’t want to grow old (well, older, since I have probably already reached the old part) and regret not spending more time with them—even if it’s just a line or two on Facebook or a heart symbol as a text message.
- Sing at least once a day. Granted, I may get evicted from my apartment for doing so, since I really cannot hold a note in a bucket. But I believe that the person who sings prays twice. Thank you, St. Augustine. I love singing John Michael Talbot’s Holy Is His Name when I pray the Liturgy of the Hours in the evening. And I might throw a Simon and Garfunkle or John Denver or Beatles tune in now and then. (I may have second thoughts about Simon and Garfunkle, since I just met a young graduate of Notre Dame who looked at me blankly when I mentioned that I kept singing “Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, they’ve all come to look for America...” as I drove the New Jersey Turnpike last week.)
- Continue the fast. I may be old-fashioned, but I really believe in the power of fasting. It might not be from chocolate or Diet Mountain Dew (two of my addictions, I am embarrassed to admit), but then again, those are things which I don’t need and others can never have. I love the idea of fasting as a spiritual discipline. But I also love the idea of fasting to stand in solidarity with those around the world who cannot have all the things I take for granted. Why wouldn’t I continue that practice after Lent is over?
- Revel in God’s creation. No matter the weather, I want to get outside for a while every single day. I think nature has something to teach me about God and God’s love for me. We have been entrusted with an amazing planet, yet so often I stay indoors and forget the gift of creation. I might (well, from May to September) even take my shoes off and feel the grass beneath my feet! And I am not going to stress about getting grass stains or dirty feet. I want to take time to smell roses or lilacs or lilies of the valley. I want to get drunk on color in October. I want to sit by the ocean and listen to the waves crash to shore. (That one might be tricky, since I live smack-dab in the middle of the country.)
- Practice mercy and a work of mercy every single day. And I don’t mean just for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I want to make this a part of my faith so ingrained that it just happens automatically. I need to both offer and accept mercy. (I really need to accept it, because I mess up on a regular basis.) I want to go through my closet and donate clothes to St. Vincent de Paul, and to serve at a soup kitchen more often. I want to support Catholic Relief Services in digging wells so people in developing countries can have the clean water I take for granted. I need to take Matthew 25 literally!
- Don’t let negative people get me down. I tend to take everything to heart, so if someone says something less than kind to me, I am going to try really hard not to let it affect my own attitude. I am not going to let others’ negativity drag me down. Instead, I am going to pray for them as hard as I can. I will try to echo, “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.” (I am really not that persecuted, but there are a few people who do make me sad or depressed.)
- Have at least one faith conversation every day. I want to ask people where God is in their lives, to listen to their faith journeys, and to learn from them what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. I want to share my own struggles and joys as I try to live faithfully and with integrity. I need to have the courage to do “Jesus talk” everywhere, not just at work or in my parish.
- Hold a baby or talk to a little kid as often as I can. When I get a bit cynical or jaded, nothing lifts me up like the words of a three-year-old. So I want to hang out with great-nieces and nephews, the grandchildren of my friends, and any little people who happen to cross my path. (I sat between two babies at Sunday mass in Orange, California, two weeks ago. And while admittedly it was a bit distracting, the joy of the baby girl and the soulful looks the baby boy gave the baby girl just tickled me so much.) Babies are God’s way of reminding us that life is beautiful—and not as complicated as we adults tend to make it.
- Read Scripture every day. I am going to focus on passages that connect with my life, but I also commit to reading at least one joy-filled verse each time I pick up God’s Word. I want to go back to Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel and revel in all the passages he quotes from the Bible about joy and hope and love. I will keep the Word with me (via smartphone, of course) so whenever I have a free moment, I can whip it out and be fed.
- End each day with an attitude of gratitude. I want to fall asleep listing all the blessings in my life. Lately, I have awakened in the middle of the night, worrying about things which can make it impossible to get back to sleep. I am going to change that by focusing on the blessings. I figure if I fall asleep in gratitude, that is the way I will wake up the next morning—a great way to start a day.
That is my “Top Thirteen” to date. Once we are actually in the Easter Season, I am going to add to my list. And I’d love to hear your list as well. In the meantime, I am going to listen to the “Exultet”. It just lifts me up to hear the words, “Rejoice, heavenly powers, our God is risen. Sound the trumpets of salvation.”