This year, 2019, Easter Sunday falls on April 21. That will not happen again until 2030. By all accounts, April 21 is one of the latest dates on which Easter can occur, the latest of which is April 25, which will not happen until 2038. While these are interesting facts from meteorological, practical and planning points of view, the actual date of Easter in the Western Church does not change what Easter means for the Catholic, for the Christian.
Easter is the celebration of the foundational event of the Catholic faith, the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead. St. Paul reminds us in his First Letter to the Corinthians, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain, you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished (1 Corinthians 15: 17-18).”
All human beings die. That is the logical consequence of human life in this world, as much as we may hesitate to think about it. But, in our Catholic faith, we live with a divine logic and a heavenly consequence of being born. Again, St. Paul reminds us, “If God did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us all everything else along with him (Romans 8: 32)?” That is the heart of our Catholic faith. That is the meaning of our Easter celebration, regardless of the date on which it occurs.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8: 38-39).”
Faith, as the Letter to the Hebrews affirms for us, is the basis of that conviction (Hebrews 11: 1). God’s love is its object, a love that was made unmistakably concrete in the life, death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him (1 John 4: 9).”
Two thousand years later, our faith in God’s love still gives us hope. “For if we live, we live for the Lord and if we die, we die for the Lord (Romans 14: 8).” It was the Lord Jesus himself who promised us, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies will live; and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die (John 11: 25-26).”
Easter places this faith and hope and love before our minds and hearts once more as Holy Week arrives. It’s not bunnies or candy in a basket or even a mere date in the Spring calendar of holidays that define Easter, as fun and enjoyable as those things may be.
Easter is about a journey to Jerusalem, a Passover meal, a washing of feet, an agony in the garden, a crowning with thorns, a betrayal by friends, a brutal sacrifice and crucifixion, a mother’s tears, a silent burial ... an empty tomb, the sight of folded cloths that once wrapped a dead body, a remembrance of prophecies made and almost forgotten, a doubtful hand placed in a man’s once fatal wounds, a Risen Lord and a promise fulfilled.
Dates don’t matter. Events and their annual commemoration do. For they give life to a faith in something everlasting. For they give life to a love that turns the impossible into reality. For they give life to a hope that opens the door to eternity for all who believe in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the true and only meaning of Easter.