I don’t know about you, but I am glad Lent is over. While I’ve always appreciated the sacrifice and meaning of it during Lent, sacrifice is so hard! I remember one Lent I gave up chocolate, and I started to dream of chocolate some nights. I felt like such a terrible person for almost lusting after chocolate so much that I actually dreamed of it.
Then, Easter came. I reflected on Christ’s resurrection… and I ate a lot of chocolate. And, that was the end. I spent an entire Lenten season reading daily devotionals, preparing for Easter, practicing self-denial, and then it was over—in a day. That’s what the vast majority of us, myself included, do—we spend 40 days sacrificing during Lent and end the fast with one day of celebration.
This year, though, I’ve realized that Easter day is not the end, nor should it be. There is so much more to Easter than just the single day of Easter. In fact, Easter is an entire season—meant to be celebrated for 50 days. It is not simply “a feast,” but the “Feast of feasts!”
Easter is more than an end to suffering—it is a resurrection of our suffering. When we sacrifice during Lent, we join in the mystery of sacrifice with our Lord. When we celebrate during Easter, Christ redeems our sacrifices. He resurrects them according to His purpose. We can have no Easter without Lent.
The Easter season is a season of joy! While sacrifice during Lent is meant to empty us of ourselves to make room for Christ, Easter is a season meant to fill us up with Christ. We’ve spent 40 days emptying ourselves to make room for Christ, and we should spend the next 50 days of Easter filling ourselves up with Christ.
But, how can we celebrate the Easter season of joy for 50 days? First, we must recognize that joy isn’t the same as happiness. Happiness is based on our external surroundings and what happens to us, while joy is a choice. Joy is rooted in Christ, and must be continually sought after in order to obtain it.
So, what are some practical steps to being joyful?
Use the muscles you got at the spiritual gym. Lent was the time we worked out in the spiritual gym, and now we can use those muscles to practice joy. “If you don’t feel like you are a particularly joyful person,” Curtis Martin says, “you can do something about it. Like building a muscle through repeated weight lifting, joy is strengthened by practicing natural virtues.” Lucky for us, we just spent 40 days working on practicing virtues, so now we can put our “muscles” in action to practice joy. Let’s reflect and look for ways we can do so in our day to day lives.
Be thankful for the small things. In the same way St. Theresa de Lisieux became a saint through serving God in the “little way,” we can follow her example by thanking God in the small things. Every day, there is at least one small thing where we can be thankful for God’s provision. It can be as small as a parking space opening up in a crowded lot, and we can say “Thank you, Lord!” No matter how small, let’s look for that one thing every day where we can thank God and celebrate with joy over. We will find ourselves increasingly joyful!
Make decisions confidently, without fear. Good Friday was the culmination of suffering during Lent—it was about humiliation, mockery, and shame. Easter is the joyful triumph of suffering. It means we Christians do not have to fear persecution, revilement, or mockery because Christ has already suffered that and overcame it. Even on a daily basis, we can make decisions with bold confidence instead of fear because of Christ’s victory. How many times have we made a choice based on fear of rejection or failure? Let’s not live by fear, but by faith!
In closing, let’s reflect on these words from Pope Francis about joy:
“There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures…
“I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to… In their own way, all these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ…
“Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being.”