By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Institute
Now that Lent has ended and we have celebrated Easter, now what?
Easter, of course, is the highlight of the Christian year – and of all human history, for that matter.
On Easter Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ rising from the dead – and, by virtue of his suffering, death and resurrection, our own immortal lives as his sisters and brothers.
The gift of eternal life ought to give us pause ... and for more than just a day or part of a day once a year.
But truth be told, when we were kids I focused more on celebrating the end of Lent than the gift of eternal life. You see, we had given up cherished things for Lent – candy or soda or comic books or something else we considered a necessity of adolescent life – and now that Lent was over so was our sacrifice. Back to business as usual. Yippee!
Adults do it too
That sense of relief and restoration doesn’t always end as we age into adulthood. I could point a finger at my friend Charlie, a pub regular, who faithfully gave up drinking every Lent (except Sundays, of course), but who couldn’t wait for Lent to end so he could get back to his regular rounds.
We never talked about the gift of eternal life. No, we lifted a glass to the end of his self-imposed deprivation. And you can be sure it never occurred to him to stick with his Lenten practice once Lent had passed. He was as eager to get back to the bottle as he had been proud to forsake it for 40 days.
I could point my finger at him and at every other adult I knew who eagerly awaited the end of Lent even more than the celebration of Easter – except it would be more honest to start by pointing my finger at me. For many years, whenever I gave up something that I cherished for Lent, I also cherished the end of Lent and the renewal of my ordinary indulgence.
The notion that what I did for Lent might carry over to the rest of my life after Lent just never crossed my mind. Now it does.
This year I started Lent with the resolve to spend more time with Jesus by reading and reflecting on the daily Mass readings from scripture, by reading other reflections of his teachings, and by setting time aside to meditate and listen.
Now that Lent is over I’m not eager to quit all those things. Quite the opposite. I want to continue those practices going forward – say for the rest of my life if I’m able.
Are there any sacrifices or practices that you want to extend beyond Lent, beyond the central celebration of Easter?
Try this baby step
If you’re open to extending a Lenten practice beyond Lent, but you’re not sure how far you want to take it, the church makes it easy for you to take a baby step with its celebration of the Easter Season.
Even as we celebrate Easter Sunday, we are beginning celebration of the Easter Season, which extends for 50 days through Pentecost Sunday. If you did something or gave up something for Lent and you could see a benefit from that change in your life during that 40 days, why not consider extending that practice through the Easter Season?
Maybe by Pentecost it will have become a change you’d like to make permanent for the rest of your pilgrimage through life.
If so, you’ll have another reason to celebrate that Sunday too.