Bridging the Gap
Bishop David A. Zubik
When I was much younger—and perhaps this has been your experience, too—I used to marvel at the ways in which my older relatives would go down Memory Lane at family gatherings. They would recall events that, to my mind were inconsequential—but which obviously were not so to them. Well, lo and behold, as a septuagenarian I am following in their footsteps.
As I was preparing for the Feast of Easter, I suddenly, for no apparent reason, felt the need to go back down Memory Lane, to recount some “firsts” in my life.
As a youngster, I developed a fascination for cars (a fascination that continues to this day). It began with a gift on my fifth birthday from my Chocha, my aunt. She gave me a miniature replica of a 1954 Plymouth Belvedere—burnt orange in color with a black roof. Ten years and forty-one car replicas later, I gave up my collection to a little boy in our town who was short on toys.
My fascination turned as a teenager to collecting phonograph records. (For Millennials: records were thin vinyl “plates” with grooves that transmitted music by way of a needle on a “record player,” with a single speaker.) My first “45” was “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes. I bought it in 1961 with some of my allowance.
That collection yielded to an interest in wristwatches. I still cherish the watch which I received from my mom and dad on Christmas 1980, and wear it regularly.
These recollections and many others were triggered as I prepared to celebrate the Easter Vigil at our Cathedral. I reflected on the prayers that I would say in the blessing of the Easter candle: “Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. All time belongs to Him, and all the ages. To Him be glory and power through every age for ever and ever.”
Those words call us to do more than bless the Easter candle; they are a blessing of time itself. Inscribed on every Easter candle in each of our churches this year is the date “2021.” The inscription and the blessing of the date are a blessing of time. What blesses time is the truth that Christ is the Light of our lives, not simply in the past, not just in the present but on into the future.
Christ is not only the Light of our lives on Easter Day, or on the eight days that follow Easter, or the fifty days that lead to Pentecost or every Sunday—which is a little Easter. Christ is always in the everywhere, and the everywhen, and the everyhow and the everyone of our lives.
This is an important lesson that we learn from each and all of the first witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus: Mary Magdalene; Peter and John; the Apostles in the Upper Room; the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; Saint Thomas the Apostle. We are hearing their stories during this Easter Season.
But unlike my Plymouth Belvedere, or my first record or my most cherished watch, the Resurrection of Jesus can never be just a moment in time. The celebration of Easter is central to every time, each moment of your life and my life, for all eternity.
Forty-one years ago, when my bishop assigned me to high school ministry, I taught a sophomore course entitled New Testament Theology. One of the points that I addressed was that Easter is not so much a noun, but a verb. Easter is a reminder that Jesus is with us at all times—yesterday, today and tomorrow. Christ is the Healer of yesterday, the Light of today and our Guide for tomorrow. Christ and His Easter must be at the center of our lives at all times. Easter must be more than an event in history or a date on the calendar. Easter must be lived in our words and deeds.
Each of us must experience how Christ is the Light “to dispel the darkness that often covers us” because of our sin, our guilt, our shame, our self-doubt and our self-condemnation. In the midst of all of those experiences, with which we can all identify, Christ is the Light to break through all that darkens our lives in the past, in the present and into the future.
Christ is also the Light Who gives us the courage to forgive others. He is the Light Who gives us insight to see the good in others. He is the Light Who empowers us to take the first step to be reconciled with others. He is the Light Who shows us the way to communicate better with others. In our relationships with others, He is the Light Who roots out prejudice, resentment and retaliation. He is the Light Who helps us to see His face in the faces of everyone we meet. He is the Light Who helps us see His face when we look in the mirror.
Finally, Christ is the Light to fire up our faith if it has grown stale or maybe become dormant. Christ is the Light Who shows us that things, careers, popularity, power or prestige are no longer most important. Christ is the Light Who helps us to see how much God loves us as we are right now and how much we need to give our love back to Him.
Yes, there is something touching about going down Memory Lane, to think about those things that define our past.
But it is even more important to go back in time to reflect on what Jesus did that first Easter morning. We need to experience how the effects of His Resurrection continue to fill us with life and show us that He is the center of our time, and of all time.
At the end of the blessing of the Easter candle, the celebrant says these words before carrying the lit candle into a darkened church: “May the Light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.” My prayer for you and me is that these may be more than words of a ritual. May they be the energy that carries us through life to God’s kingdom in heaven.
Toward that end, I invite you, as I invited my sophomore class four decades ago, to pray each day these words: “Easter us, oh Lord.”
Photo by Justin Merriman