An Easter Like No Other

I awoke this morning to brilliant sunshine piercing through my bedroom window and filling the area with radiant light. From the moment I opened my eyes, it was an instant reminder that Easter was here along with the glorious promise that this day brings. After weeks of darkness, it was the best sign that I could have asked for.

Today is a glorious day.

We will soon not forget the Lenten season of 2020. We were tested like never before as COVID-19 swept in and dramatically altered our lives, both in a general and spiritual sense. Although our preparation for today’s most holy feast was stunted in the respect that we couldn’t gather in churches to walk with Jesus through the desert, we still had every opportunity to make that journey in the solitude of our own homes. By choosing the latter, perhaps we drew closer than ever before.

Besides the challenges of Lent 2020, I will also fondly remember the gloriousness of it. Just a couple days after Ash Wednesday, Sidney was welcomed into the Church and Beau was baptized. Normally, candidates for initiation into the Church are confirmed at the Easter Vigil. However, because of our situation with moving across the country, Father Roger Morgan graciously allowed our family to receive these sacraments at the end of February, a couple weeks before the Coronavirus entered the picture. If not for Fr. Morgan’s kind exception, we wouldn’t know when Sid would be in full communion with the Church nor when Beau would be baptized.

What a special day that February 27 was.

Speaking of Father Morgan, he was fond of saying that today is not the end of Lent but rather the beginning of Easter. For the next 50 days we have the opportunity to celebrate the salvation we have all been given by virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection. With the Covid backdrop still very much present, the good news of Easter should help keep our earthly challenges in perspective.

This is my favorite holiday and I miss my family greatly. However, just like the disciples weren’t separated from Jesus for long, the distance that exists between my wife and kids in relation to myself will soon be bridged.

Happy Easter everyone. He is risen, truly he is risen. Don’t Blink.

Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday, a significant date for Christians across the globe. When I think about Palm Sunday, I reflect on how the day is both joyful and sorrowful.

Today is Palm Sunday and Sloan has her palm.

You ever wonder why Catholics hold actual palms on this day? It is rooted directly in scripture. When Jesus returned to Jerusalem, he triumphantly rode a donkey into the city. Citizens cheered his return and laid out palm branches along his path. At mass this weekend, we start the service with this biblical recollection (it can be found in all four gospels). As the procession makes its way to the altar, we raise palms as well.

We commemorate Jesus’ triumphant return to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

This was a glorious moment in Christ’s ministry, and thus a great moment for us to celebrate each year. But Palm Sunday also brings joy because it marks one week until Easter and it kicks off Holy Week. As the Lenten season concludes, we have hope that the Resurrection is upon us. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Holy Week begins today.

However, as I mentioned above, Palm Sunday isn’t only about happiness. In mass today, we hear two gospel readings. The first is of course the return of Jesus to Jerusalem. The second is the Passion according to Mark. After remembering how the human race celebrated Jesus, we meditate on how it crucified him.

Palm Sunday is both joyful and sorrowful.

Likewise, although the one-week mark until Easter brings us significant anticipation, it also brings us darkness as well. On Good Friday we will read John’s account of Christ’s Passion. This is a day of mourning, the day in which we observe the actual death of Jesus for our sins. It is a day of fasting and the service usually takes place at 3 p.m. to commemorate the time that Jesus died.

Our pastor at St. Andrew, Father Roger Morgan, encourages us to keep our palms displayed in our homes throughout the year. He urges us to look at them often to remind us that we are all like the crowds of Jerusalem, both capable of welcoming the Lord with joy, but also betraying him if he fails to meet our expectations.

We have palms in our house to remind us that while we celebrate Jesus, we can be just as fast to betray him.

Let me end with this: As we enter Holy Week, let’s make sure to meditate on how we have failed God. The next several days is the perfect time to intensify our Lenten promises or, if we neglected to do so, make some for this week. Now is the time to prepare ourselves for Easter. Don’t Blink.

The Journey of Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, a major day on the Catholic liturgical calendar and those of many other Christian denominations as well. Although not a Holy Day of Obligation, Ash Wednesday mass is one of the most highly-attended services during the year. It kicks off the holy season of Lent, a period of 40 days (technically 46 days) where we prepare for Easter by trying to emulate the suffering that Jesus Christ endured by Satan in the desert over the same course of time.

What does your Lenten journey look like?

Five years ago, I wrote about Lent through the eyes of an individual. As Christians, we are not only called to fast, pray, and give alms but we are asked to do it in a private manner. The gospel clearly says that when we make a big deal about doing righteous acts, we are seeking the praise of others, not God. When we aim to earn praise from our social media followers or our friends, we will lose out on our reward in Heaven. Thus, it is important not to openly publicize or gloat about our Lenten intentions.

However, Lent is not meant to be confined solely within ourselves. Rather, over the next 40 days, the opportunities are plentiful to grow closer to Jesus as a Christian community. Daily mass, group rosary, Stations of the Cross, communal confession, bible studies, and Friday fish frys are great ways to connect with others as we journey toward Easter. Although our personal sacrifices are meant to be kept private, our desire to understand and anticipate the resurrection of the Lord is not.

In my opinion, there is no better road to take than the Lenten road. Easter is the holiest day on the calendar for all Christians and it takes preparation to properly celebrate it. Through fasting, praying, and almsgiving we give ourselves plenty of time to meditate and reflect on both the darkest hour of mankind (the Passion) and the glorious moment of redemption. It is tough to truly understand and appreciate these events if we just “wing it.”

This morning at Ash Wednesday mass, our parish administrator at St. Andrew, Fr. Roger Morgan, explained the symbolism of the ashes perfectly. He said they aren’t applied so we can “identify ourselves as part of a tribe” (i.e. Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, etc.). Instead, they are applied to identify ourselves simply as sinners. It is pure reality. We are all sinners and there is no better way to come to grips with this and truly focus on it than six weeks before Easter.

Although most of us wiped the ashes off our foreheads at the conclusion of the service we attended, it is important to act as if they are still there. Lent is a time to humble ourselves and draw closer to God. We need to accept that we are sinners but do everything possible to overcome temptations and seek the narrow way. Don’t Blink.