“In the light of the Risen Lord, our sufferings are now transfigured. Where there was death, now there is life. Where there was mourning, now there is consolation. In embracing the cross, Jesus bestowed meaning on our sufferings and now we pray that the benefits of that healing will spread throughout the world.”
—Pope Francis, Ubi et Orbi message, Easter 2021
As we approach the end of the Lenten season and prepare for the Triduum, reaching the Easter season can sometimes feel like crossing a finish line. While events and programs wrap up in the spring season, we cannot forget that Easter Sunday is just the beginning and provides us with ample opportunities to connect with those at our parishes.
Easter is more than one day; it is a season of joy and alleluia! It is a time to celebrate the Resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ. It is a time to rejoice in the gift of encounter. “Encounters with the risen Christ characterize the Christian hope of resurrection. We shall rise like Christ, with him, and through him” (CCC 995). Let us use the seven full weeks after Easter Sunday to help people encounter Christ anew.
Here are seven ways to help facilitate encounter experiences during the Easter Season.
Take time to encounter the Lord anew yourself. Just as Unleash the Gospel reminds us, “…we cannot give what we do not have, we continually seek to be refreshed in God’s presence and filled again and again with his love, so that it is his own love we are giving away” (Guidepost 1). You might consider taking a spring walk to watch the sunrise with the awareness that God is ushering in a brand new day, taking time for prayer and rest, or attending a retreat.
Continue the celebration on Divine Mercy Sunday beyond Mass. Invite families to join together to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Provide prayer cards so that they can easily participate. Offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation and have guides to go to confession and family-friendly Examination of Consciences available. Host an ice-cream social to end the celebration to foster community.
Offer opportunities for families to attend Eucharistic Adoration during the Easter season. You may want to include music and prayers to keep younger children engaged and help them focus. Consider making guides for families to use during their time in prayer, including coloring pages for young children. Have crayons and pens on hands for easy use.
Invite families to join a Family Small Group in the Easter season. Gathering with other families to discuss family life in light of our faith offers opportunities to see the Lord working in everyday life and focus on him.
Dive into Scripture. Host a Lectio Divina series as part of your Adult Formation or Youth Ministry opportunities. Give families a simple reading schedule to use each week that catechists also reflect on in the classroom. Provide prayer journals where parishioners can jot down notes while reading Scripture. Pick a specific book of the Bible and encourage the whole parish to read it during the Easter season.
Help people share their encounter experiences with others. A powerful witness can lead to another person encountering the Lord. “The witness of a joyful family life rooted in the Gospel can be a spiritual oasis for people in contemporary society” (Marker 7.3). Host a testimony workshop during the Easter season. Encourage students to write a letter to a family member about a time that God impacted their lives. Make a video with parishioners of all ages sharing who God is in their lives.
Just as Jesus walked with the disciples on the path to Emmaus, we can accompany the families in our parishes. Unleash the Gospel reminds us that, “The invitation to believe in the Gospel is always personal: it is not a moral program but the offer of communion with a person, Jesus. ‘Heart speaks to heart,’ as Cardinal John Henry Newman put it.” (Marker 1.2). Christ can be revealed in new ways when we meet people where they are at, spread joy, and intentionally encourage people.
May we take time this Easter season to encounter the Resurrected Christ anew. Let us keep the momentum of Easter Sunday the whole season through—spreading joy, especially in our parishes and families.