When the Easter ‘vigil’ becomes a clock-watching contest

Joyfully we continue our  Easter celebrations in the knowledge that Jesus has risen and that we have been redeemed. But, we ourselves have also undergone a transformation. In reaffirming our baptismal promises, we make a conscious choice to believe and practice our faith.

Looking around the church on Easter morning, I noticed there was not a single pew in eyesight that wasn’t crammed with people, reminding me of what my dad says: The Easter lilies have rejoined the faithful community. 

This Easter, we sat behind a family that we had never before seen in church. Throughout the Mass, the husband and wife in front of me continually whispered amongst themselves. Often, a watch was consulted. Apparently, brunch reservations had been made and there was concern if  they would make it on time. 

A panicked, whispered debate between husband and wife then became the attempted-whispered dialogue among a family of seven squeezed into the pew. Their voices rose as they all consulted their watches. As Communion began, they all shrugged into their coats. But due to some miscommunication, our section of the church had only one priest serving Communion to two large sections of people. Rather than wait, the family abruptly rose and darted out of one of the side doors.

For me, that moment encapsulated the immense struggle that we, as Catholics, have as we strive to live out our baptismal promises in the world. 

Watching that family create a scene and abruptly leave before receiving the Eucharist, I was reminded of how easy it is to dismiss God in the midst of daily life. Reservations were made, so God came second. 

As our priest reminded us, baptism is a sacrament that many of us were too young to remember. So, each year we “ratify” our vows to be a Catholic. We are given the choice to remain faithful to our promises.

Being a Catholic means making some tough decisions. Our beliefs aren’t always the beliefs of the world. And in that moment on Easter Sunday, we confirm our choice. If you don’t believe it, you don’t have to practice it. 

Looking around me, I wondered how many of us took those words to heart. How many of us simply repeated and went through the motions? It’s a sobering thought.

When we emerge from our Easter Masses, we have undergone a transformation, a recommitted promise to our redeemer. But the rest of the world has done no such thing. 

That night, as I scrolled through my social media news feeds, I certainly saw adorable photos of family celebrations and children with their egg hunts. But I also saw a number of posts condemning the celebration of a Christian holiday, opting instead to favor the fertility of spring or some other such pagan ritual.

Because I use social media for both personal and professional contacts, my news feed is often at war with itself. That mirrors the reality in which we find ourselves. We may leave Easter Mass feeling jubilant – surrounded by family, enriched by the Gospel – but will that joy be enough to carry us through the year practicing our beliefs?

Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at hbozantwitcher@clarionherald.org.

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