By Father Leonard Peterson
My old seminary philosophy professor, Father Joe Ward, had a favorite expression all his own to describe the superlative. With a little smile and a snicker, he would tell us that this or that was “than which there is no whicher.” Like a lot of our colloquialisms, that one eludes grammatical analysis, but we know what it means. With a salute to my former prof, let me say that the feast of Easter fits his description quite well. It is our superlative feast.
Granted, Christmas comes each year full of charm and charity, lights and light- heartedness. There are traditional carols and heirloom tree ornaments. But that feast only celebrates the beginning of the greatest story ever told. Easter in one sense is the ending, but we know with the passage of time and thought that it too marked a beginning.
There are fearful consequences and wonderful ones also about Easter. How right is Paul when he tells his Corinthians to “clear out the old yeast that you may become a fresh batch of dough.” He uses a bread maker’s work to describe our challenging task of putting on a new way of thinking. The same Paul said in his letter to the Romans read at the Holy Saturday Vigil: “For if we have grown into union with Him through a death like His, we shall also be united with Him in the resurrection.”
It is uplifting to hear again how amazed were Jesus’ first followers on the early morning of that “first day of the week.” It was a day like no other, and the reason for our Sunday gatherings even now.
Mary Magdala delivered the news to Peter and the beloved disciple, and this time Peter did not deny the way he did so sadly a few nights earlier. Run both men did to that empty tomb. John, with his younger legs, got there first. But even way back then, respect for the office of the first pope, the unlikely “rock,” compelled John to let Peter go in the tomb first. Even though both men did not yet “understand the Scripture,” they believed. That was the outcome of the hope the angels had trumpeted some 33 years earlier at the Lord’s Bethlehem birth.
One could well say that Easter is the annual feast of hope. At times, hope seems to be the forgotten virtue among us because it seems so impractical to have hope in the face of our evening news. In a new book titled “The World as It Should Be” author Gregory F. A. Pierce itemizes all the things implied when we say “the kingdom of God.” In his section on the kingdom as being one full of joy, he writes: “What Christians believe is that Jesus’ dream of the kingdom of God – which has already begun and is still to come on earth -offers humanity hope that things don’t have to be the way they are, that by changing how we view and do things we can be ‘salt of the earth’ and a ‘light of the world’ (see Matthew 5:13-14). And this makes us pretty happy. It gives new meaning to our existence and even to our trials and struggles.”
This hope, born at the site of that empty tomb, is more real than anything else we know. It is enough to build a life on, and to live it more abundantly. A happy and blessed Easter to you and yours!
Father Peterson is pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Hatfield.