Broken and Healed: An Easter Message
Let Easter be the day you break open a new way to see the Real Presence of Christ.
Many Easters ago, my family drove to the city where I ministered to attend Mass and allow us to spend the holiday together. To spare my mom from preparing a big meal beforehand and transporting it all, as she did in previous years, I suggested a restaurant as an alternative. As it turned out, one of the few dining options open on Easter that could take care of our large party on short notice was an Asian restaurant. Surprisingly, my skeptical Cajun family was amenable to the idea of a nontraditional Easter dinner, and that day a family tradition we followed for years thereafter—“Easter egg foo young”—was hatched.
While converting my family to an unconventional Easter meal was easier than I expected, the Mass earlier that day was more of a challenge: how to accommodate some congregants who had seemingly grown skeptical of hearing anything new.
This challenge—whether at Easter or other occasions—is described by the theologian Frederick Buechner in a relatable way: “In the front pews the old ladies turn up their hearing aids, and a young lady slips her six-year-old a Lifesaver and a Magic Marker. A college sophomore home for vacation, who is there because he was dragged there, slumps forward with his chin in his hand….The preacher pulls the little cord that turns on the lectern light and deals out his note cards like a riverboat gambler. The stakes have never been higher….Everybody knows the kind of things he has told them before and not told them, but who knows what this time, out of the silence, he will tell them?”
The perennial “Christ is risen!” message has been told before. Whatever else can be said is a variation of this fundamental truth.
Yet, if Easter morning Mass is seen as “same old, same old”—just sprinkled with more alleluias and holy water—then we give new meaning to the Easter Gospel passage, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5). Let us recall the lighting of the paschal candle and words of the Exsultet from the night before, “May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who, coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity.”
Let us also recall our baptism, where a candle was lit from the paschal candle with the instruction, “You have been enlightened by Christ. Walk always as a child of the light and keep the flame of faith alive in your heart.” Moreover, in the Gospels, Jesus said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 12:49). This fire enflamed the early Church on the first Pentecost, but how do we keep it burning with intensity today, two thousand years later?
More specifically, how do we keep the flame of faith alive in our heart during the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith? When the music at Mass feels lackluster? When we don’t feel like singing, even if it’s “praying twice” as St. Augustine described it? When the homilist validates the quip made by Charles Spurgeon, “Some ministers would make good martyrs; they’re so dry they would burn up quickly”? When the words and actions often feel boring and monotonous? When people already seem to know the kinds of things that will be said and done at Mass, and they’ve grown less open to the possibility of anything new?
That’s precisely when we need to see the Easter meal at the altar-banquet table every Sunday in a fresh, unconventional way!
First, focus intently on the breaking of the bread, the fraction rite during the “Lamb of God.” Although the celebration of the Eucharist is popularly known today as the Mass, it was called “the breaking of the bread” in the Acts of the Apostles (2:42). This “gesture of breaking bread done by Christ at the Last Supper…gave the entire Eucharistic Action its name” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 83). At Mass, bread is broken and wine is poured for Communion, just as the Body of Christ was broken and the Blood of Christ was poured out on the cross. In this fraction rite, we recognize Christ in “the breaking of the bread,” as did his disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:30–31—an Easter Sunday Gospel).
Second, concentrate on these specific words as we prepare to receive holy Communion, “Lord…only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Bread broken…soul healed! Broken and healed!
Third, as we come toward the Real Presence of Christ in the Communion line, let us call to mind all that is broken in us and in our world, asking our Lord for healing. “Lord, if you will it, you can heal me.” In that line, as we approach the table of the Lord, let us walk always as a child of the light and keep forever the flame of faith alive intensely in our heart! A
Easter Inspiration from POPE BENEDICT XVI (1927–2022)
“[Holy Mary,] from the Cross you became a mother in a new way: the mother of all those who believe in your Son Jesus and wish to follow him. The sword of sorrow pierced your heart. Did hope die? Did the world remain definitively without light, and life without purpose?….No, at the foot of the Cross, on the strength of Jesus’ own word, you became the mother of believers. In this faith, which even in the darkness of Holy Saturday bore the certitude of hope, you made your way toward Easter morning.”
Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Saved in Hope (Spe Salvi), 2007