Bunnies … eggs … suffering … and salvation
By Dr Gerard Gaskin, Executive Director of Catholic Education Tasmania.
Once I heard a child say, when asked about the meaning of Easter: “It’s when the Easter Bunny rose from the dead.”
The child was displaying a natural confusion of two parallel narratives. The secular view of Easter bunnies and Easter eggs was competing with the Christian understanding that someone very important, Jesus, rose from the dead. Over all, this sounds like a win for Christianity, because the clear message the child had received was about rising from the dead.
We ought not be surprised when our children receive mixed messages about Easter or Christmas. Christian parents have long understood that it is their job to ensure that their children understand the true meanings of these great feasts of the Liturgical calendar.
It is interesting how Lent – the time of preparation for the Easter mysteries – is still on the agenda of our modern world, even if only to sell more fish in the supermarkets.
Many of my non-Catholic friends would never think of eating meat on Good Friday, out of respect for the great and moving mystery of Jesus’ death. Hot cross buns, Easter sales, seafood orders for Good Friday, public holidays and chocolate bunnies, each in their own ways, remind us that something special is being celebrated, even in our non-religious culture, especially in Holy Week.
In our schools we remind our students, our staff and ourselves about the importance of the Paschal mystery. Ashes are distributed on Ash Wednesday, our schools conduct reverent Holy Week prayer services and re-enactments of the Passion and death of Jesus Christ, even though many families may profess no particular religion. There could be no Resurrection to eternal life without sacrifice.
In our schools and among our families, Easter provides us with a sombre reminder that our sins have consequences: someone did die because of them. Jesus, true God and true man, took on our human failings and bore the agony of scourging and crucifixion out of love for us – despite all our sinfulness. His sufferings were not merely symbolic. They are not a distant and disputed part of history.
As the Shroud of Turin so graphically reveals, Jesus suffered excruciatingly for us. He fulfilled, as no other person could, the words of biblical prophecy and God’s promise of redemption. He paid the price.
Holy Week and Eastertide are great catechetical opportunities for teachers and parents, as are the Ascension and Pentecost, all of which reflect the glory of the Resurrection.
Easter is therefore a time for immense gratitude. We thank our God for the immense graces won for all by Jesus’ death and Resurrection.