A child asked, “So, what does the Easter Bunny have to do with Easter anyway?”
The rest of the fourth and fifth graders gave a resounding, “Yeah!” as though they were finally going to get the answer that had left them partly bewildered, partly disillusioned. This is what I get for asking, “Does anyone have any questions at all?” I answered them briefly about traditions, spring, etc. Knowledge is interesting, but it does not help answer the underlying question, “Who or what can I trust in now?” How do we answer these questions as parents, and how do we these questions for ourselves?
I love Santa Claus’ visits and even advocated for my dad to keep it up when he said he thought it would be dishonest to start Santa-stuff with my youngest sibling. Besides the tradition, illusions are fun, especially when you are a kid: I used to love those magic shows on TV with Doug Henning and David Copperfield. But the Easter Bunny disillusionment was a traumatic one for my boys. They were old enough that I assumed they had heard the “rumors” at school. They didn’t believe in the Tooth Fairy, so I thought I’d test the waters. I let them witness the candy purchase, and explained that this was what we were getting for Easter this year. But I was not prepared by the emotional response I got when I didn’t sneak the candy out: “He’s not real? What else haven’t you told me? What else isn’t real? How can I trust you?”
I felt guilty and my credibility was shot. That’s bad enough when you are a parent, but what about when you are a parent AND a catechist? Would the kids discount Jesus too? I decided to take a step back, and let others do the catechizing. We made it through somehow, and I have tried to maintain a minimal level of constancy. Alas, as the boys have grown, my credibility rises and falls like the NASDAQ. With teenagers, the only catechesis I provide at home is to live with and love them like its a ministry (without their knowledge…so keep that under your hat). They tolerate me bringing up God every once in a while, although they still don’t understand why they have to get up on Sunday morning if God loves them so much!
Jesus leads ALL of us out of the security of the sheepfold, but He is STILL leading us. How many times in our own lives have we come across something about the Bible, the Church, or the world around us that brought us up short and left us in doubt, confusion, or grief? It is common enough to deal with this discomfort by not dealing with it, or by replacing an immature idea with absolutes like “therefore the opposite must be true” or “therefore nothing is true.”
I wonder if the disciples had a similar reaction after Jesus’ death. Jesus had tried to prepare the disciples, but they didn’t understand Him. I imagine that, not knowing what would happen next, they felt abandoned:
This is not how things were supposed to work out. We entered Jerusalem, they had a parade for him, now he is crucified? Jesus was our master. We lived and worked with him, learned from him, but now he is gone. Who or what can I trust in now?
Their grief and confusion was not immediately relieved. For two days, the disciples sat together, in community, without Him, in an in-between space. I wonder what they talked about:
- Did some of them doubt he was the Messiah? Maybe someone remembered Jesus’ love and forgiveness, his wondrous acts, or his teaching about the Kingdom of God.
- Maybe someone recalled Jesus’ words about dying and rising, but wondered how this tragedy could fit into God’s plan.
- Did someone reassure them by recalling the good things God had done, or by reciting psalms about waiting patiently for the Lord?
On the third day they received an impossible testimony from women. When they stood in front of the empty tomb, skepticism must have turned to bewilderment. Jesus the man, who lived among them, died as one of them, might be risen? Only later would the women’s bizarre proclamations be confirmed by their own encounters with Jesus. Resurrection was no longer only a hope, it was reality.
Children will openly share their mysterious knowledge of the Holy, but the older child has also discovered disillusionment, which can be frightening. The Easter Bunny is nothing compared to questions of faith. In the atrium, they acknowledge their doubts and faith, and we sit in community in that in-between space. Where isolation may tempt us to rest in our own conclusions, community led by the Holy Spirit can guide us and build our trust on deeper Truth. We prepare for our own impossible holy encounters by listening to God in prayer, scripture, worship, and in one another. God wants to be in a deeper relationship with us, and will help us understand a little bit at a time as we are able, and Jesus assured us that he is present even if only two are gathered in his name.
Whether or not we believe in or have experience with resurrection, we are not alone as we sit in the intensity of doubt and faith in the Triduum, i.e. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. We sit with others in our beloved community and we sit where the disciples sat. Through these days of grief and doubt the blessing of rebirth, resurrection, and new life comes. Easter is coming, and it comes for us as well. “He is no longer here. He is risen.”