Like most of you, Easter has always been a big deal in my family. If you want proof of this, you need look no further than our family photo albums. Every year, there is an Easter picture and because it’s every year, you can see the great progression of our family from one Easter to another. When my parents first moved from the comforts of Somerville into the newly built ranch home in the wilderness of Woburn, there were few if any trees around. If the weather was good enough, the Easter picture might be taken outside in front of the house, my dad and my mom holding the two or three of their kids that happened to be around that year. Babies lead to toddlers, who morphed into four growing boys followed by three younger sisters, the progression and growth captured each year in a Kodak moment.
The background and setting for the picture changed as well over the years. As shrubs and trees were planted so all us kids might be posed in front of either the forsythia bush or the crab apple tree depending on which one happened to be in bloom at the time. If the weather was bad, the Easter picture would be taken in the living room in front of the fireplace with the portrait of the child Jesus in umber colors that every Catholic house seemed to have, prominently displayed above the mantle. I don’t know how my mother did it, but she always managed to get her four boys in jackets and ties and the girls as they were added to family in their matching wool jackets and hats. Still, if you look real close at the pictures, Mom always looked a bit tired while we were smiling away, probably still on our sugar high from all the Easter candy.
Now, the whole process of taking the Easter pictures was never an easy one. While at the end of the day there was always one picture that was the picture for that year, the photo albums are littered with the “also rans,” the pictures where someone has given someone else ‘rabbit ears’ or made a face or pinched the one in front or just plain did not want to cooperate. I kind of like those pictures the best. They capture the wildness and energy of kids being kids and a family being a family, no matter how much it aggravated Mom and Dad at the time.
After the pictures were completed and before we could ruin our Easter best, we were loaded into the station wagon and drove to church. It was pleasant to see that my siblings and I were not the only kids who were scrubbed and cleaned to an inch of our lives the night before. There were kids in church in jackets and ties whose you never saw so slick and clean, the boys with their fresh haircuts and the girls with every hair and curl absolutely in the right place, at least at the start of Mass. As today, the church was packed as we all stood and listened to the Easter gospel announcing that Jesus is risen from the dead and the tomb is empty. As we all filed out after Mass, we were able to catch a few moments conversation with the priests and friends before driving home for Easter dinner at our house or one of my aunts homes.
It was all about faith and family. With all of the things that surrounded Easter it couldn’t help but be a special day! No one dressed up for every Sunday but everyone sure did on Easter! No kid woke up on Sunday morning expecting there would be candy and chocolates and the disappointment of hollow Easter bunnies (that’s another story) but on Easter Sunday we did. It wasn’t every Sunday that we had a great feast of Lamb and ham and cheesy potatoes but we sure did on Easter Sunday. It wasn’t every Sunday that the church was packed and the choir boomed out and the building was so filled with joy you thought it was going to burst, but on Easter Sunday, it sure felt that way.
Today is Easter Sunday. It isn’t every Sunday that we hear the great story of Jesus’ resurrection but today we do. It isn’t every Sunday that this church is so packed that it’s standing room only , but today it is. It isn’t every Sunday that many of us make it to church but today we have and it’s great to see everyone. But it is every Sunday, in fact every day, that God knows us and loves us and calls us to himself through our faith in His Son and in his church. God doesn’t need a snapshot or a Kodak moment to recall the movements and progress of our lives, both as individuals and as families and neighbors. He knows them all. He cherishes each and every moment that we seek to serve him whatever the circumstances, whatever the setting. God has offered us the gift of eternal life that was accomplished when Jesus died on the cross for us and rose from the dead. It may not be everyday that we live that promise well, but perhaps, just today, in the light of the joy of the resurrection, we might say, “this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad for Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Let us live our lives in that joy.” Maybe we may just leave this place more committed to living the life of faith, bedecked in the Easter best of the Holy Spirit and the fire of faith. Quick, somebody take a picture!