People are accustomed to giving up things for Lent. Perhaps we need to start a new tradition and start giving up things for Easter.
What’s that you ask? Why would someone give things up for Easter?
Where Lent is a season of discipline and prayer, fasting and self-denial, Easter is a time of celebration and of joy, of living in the Lord’s time of wonder. Self-denial may seem out of place in a time of joy but in some ways it is impossible for us to truly feel joy unless we let go of some negative feelings and emotions that prevent us from fully taking in what is available to us during the Easter season.
Imagine that you are a kid in a candy store and you see a big jar of jawbreakers sitting on the counter and your mouth starts watering. You really, really want a piece of candy. The store manager says, “Try your luck. You can have free as many pieces as you can take from the jar in one pull.”
You reach into the jar and grab a large handful of candy, closing your fingers on your treasure. However, when you try to remove your hand from the jar, it won’t come out. It’s stuck. The mouth of the jar is big enough for your unclenched hand to enter with room to spare, but as soon as you grab a handful of candy and close your fist, the jar’s mouth is too small. The only way to get your hand out of the jar is to let go of the candy.
The same happens to us when it comes to matters of faith. We see all of the joys of the Easter season, which lasts for 50 days until Pentecost. We truly want to celebrate, but we can’t because we are holding on to our fears and our concerns, our petty jealousies and closed attitudes.
Like the child grabbing too much in the candy store, we are not able to take advantage of the Easter celebration as long as our fists are closed.
In order to truly revel in the joy of the Resurrection, we have to realize that there are things we must give up, and the things we must give up are those that get in the way of our true joy.
Unlike Lent, when people give up things they enjoy or love as a sacrifice, Easter can bring a type of dumping, a spiritual spring cleaning, if you will, of attitudes and behaviors that are useless and are a hindrance to our happiness.
To start, give up hungering for things. Instead, hunger for God. In John 4:14, which we read during Lent, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that he is the living water that relieves all thirst. In John 6:51, Jesus tells his followers that he is the bread of life and that those who eat of his flesh will live forever.
Baptism and the Eucharist are major parts of the Easter celebration. The Lord offers us all the water and food that will satisfy our hunger. All we have to do is open our minds and hearts to accept these gifts. Don’t hold on so tightly to the material. Let the Lord satisfy your hunger instead.
It also would serve us well to give up bitterness and resentment, jealousy and envy. In Galatians 3:28, the apostle Paul offered this advice: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Scripture scholars suggest that this statement is an early baptismal formula, words that the early church used when people were baptized. To the Galatians, Paul is doing more than offering them sage advice. He is reminding them of what it means to be a Christian.
If all are “one in Christ Jesus,” there is no room for jealousy or envy, bitterness or resentment.
As long as we hold bad feelings in our hearts, we are not free to savor Easter joy.
To the list, add giving up loneliness and fear, especially fear of sickness and death. Jesus’ disciples were heartbroken when he was crucified. Their hopes and dreams had died with Jesus. The Gospels tell us that most of the disciples fled and hid, thinking that they had been fools. Then came the Resurrection and things changed.
The fullness of Jesus’ teaching became real for them: The kingdom of God that Jesus had preached took on new meaning in light of the resurrection.
That’s the ultimate good news of Christianity: death has no more power over us. This revelation filled the first disciples with such joy that they took to the streets at Pentecost to share it with others. They did so with such enthusiasm that many in the crowd thought they were drunk. To believe in the Resurrection, we must, like the disciples, let go of our fears.
If we let go of all of these negative things, only then can Easter, its 50 days and beyond, truly begin.
Mulhall lives and writes in Laurel, Md.