What is the Meaning of Easter?

It is late afternoon. The sliding glass door is open slightly, letting in the sounds of children splashing in the pool, cars driving past, someone is vacuuming three doors down. It is as quiet as it is going to get for a moment of reflection time. Holy Thursday Mass happens later tonight. Tomorrow, the Good Friday Service. Then finally, Easter morning itself.

For the past few days I have been thinking about what Easter means to me now. It used to be colorful Easter baskets with the green plastic grass. Plastic pastel Easter eggs filled with jelly beans and chocolate. Easter used to mean getting dressed up in my white and pink flowered dress with the puffy sleeves, wearing pretty sandals, and singing my favorite Easter hymn. “Jesus Christ is risen today, Aaaaa-le-e-lu-u-ia.” It used to mean decorating a dozen Easter eggs, eating bagels with strawberry cream cheese, and the anticipation of a delicious late afternoon dinner feast.

But today, Easter feels very different. Partly because I won’t be getting an Easter basket, but mostly because I want it to mean something different. I don’t want to just go through the motions. I want to understand in a deeper way.

When I lived in the Philippines, I got to experience some incredible Holy Week traditions. One year in particular, I went to the Holy Week Festival in Marinduque. We watched a live play of the passion story that started in the streets, then we followed Jesus to a field where we watched him get crucified on the cross.

Another day I witnessed special men in the town who flagellated themselves until they bled, in order to experience the suffering of what Jesus might have felt. One evening, I stood on the street watching a candlelight procession, watching the faces of the faithful as they passed by. It was one of the most powerful Holy Week images I have witnessed in person.

What I’ve noticed about Filipinos and Holy Week is that they focus a lot on the suffering Christ, on Good Friday – Jesus’ death and suffering on the cross. Perhaps, when most of your life is a series of struggles, it is a suffering Jesus that is easiest to relate to.

However, Easter is not meant to focus only on suffering but on the joy of the risen Christ. It is the signal of a new beginning, a new age, one that we are all called to participate in bringing about the kingdom of God. We don’t just sit around waiting for the second coming; we live our lives working towards that eschatological vision. Jesus’ death and resurrection – showing that our bodies and creation itself are good – help us to know that our lives here on Earth have meaning too.

Trying to contemplate the fullness of what the resurrection means can make your head spin. It is complex. However, what does speak to me is that the resurrection is God’s love statement. It is an “I love you” expressed to each and every one of us. The fact that God had a plan to become human and reveal himself to us is a great act of love. One that I still have a hard time understanding.

I’ll never forget the Easter Mass in Marinduque. During the uplifting song the “Gloria,” a cloth that had been placed in front of the statue of Jesus was dropped to the ground and a spotlight was turned towards it. Smoke began shooting upwards from behind Jesus, catching the light in a surreal way – a real vision of Jesus risen in glory. I almost laughed out loud at the scene. While all of us may focus on the suffering of Christ at times, it is Easter that reminds us that there is hope, that God’s power is present among us, and that God loves us very much.

 

Yours truly,
a girl who dreams

 

Am I Good Enough?

am i good enough

I used to have a guitar student who could play a mean improv rock solo. His fingers slid up and down the fretboard, masterfully plucking out a melody that always evoked a few dropped jaws and a whole lot of awestruck stares from onlookers. He’d then finish abruptly as if suddenly self conscious about his playing and look up at me with his intense brown eyes, silently asking for confirmation. “Had I done a good job?” his eyes asked me in that brief flicker of a moment.

“Am I good enough?”

Despite how successful or talented we are, all of us have struggled with the feelings of inadequacy – not doing enough, giving enough, praying enough, not talented enough, beautiful enough, likable enough.

Our yearning to aspire for greatness, to better ourselves, and achieve our dreams and goals in life can sometimes bring us to the brink of a large canyon we find we are unable to leap over. Our ambition suddenly transforms into weakness, incompetence, inadequacy. We find ourselves lacking and our hearts ache with that realization. On days like that, we allow our minds to swarm with distorted ideas and beliefs of the measure of our abilities.

“I will never be good enough to do that.”

“I’m not pretty enough for a guy to like me.”

“I’m out of her league.”

“I’m not smart enough to apply to the school I want to.”

“I don’t have enough experience to get that job.”

“I don’t have the guts to do that.”

“I haven’t gotten to where I expected to be in life.”

These feelings of not being good enough can stem from outside influences – societal pressures, family expectations, comments from friends, even strangers – but most often, they come from within. We constantly compare ourselves to others. We fall short of our own expectations. We focus on what we haven’t done; we allow our failures to define us. We look over at the next person and think, “I’m not like them. Look how amazing and successful they are. Why can I not be more like them?”

 

Enough, friends. Enough.

 

The fact is, you are not like that person because you are not that person. You are YOU. You have different strengths and talents that were meant to be used by you alone. You are a child of God and you exist for a very specific reason. You were made in God’s image; you were created by the same artist who painted golden sunsets and fashioned delicate flower petals. You are God’s beloved.

sunset god's beloved

“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” ~ Job 33:4

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” ~ Jeremiah 1:5

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” ~ Psalms 139:13-14

god's beloved

Don’t allow yourself to accept the idea that you are not good enough, for you have been carefully crafted into the person you are. God will continue to lead you to discover more about who you were meant to be and the path God is calling you towards. One of my favorite books, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, written by Fr. James Martin, speaks of vocation and discernment in life. Who are we called to be? Where is God leading us? How do we use our strengths and abilities to express God’s love and live in a more engaged and fulfilling way? Fr. James explains it simply:

“Each of us is called to a unique vocation in life, based on the desires that God plants within us, as well as our talents skills, and personalities…That means letting go of the wish to become someone else and remembering that your own vocation – not someone else’s – is the path to happiness. You don’t need to use anyone else’s map to heaven, because God has already placed within your soul all the directions you need.”

When we start focusing on what we know to be true to our self and our own unique strengths, we instill in ourselves the power to move with forward momentum. Despite our human limitations and weaknesses, we have the capability to persevere and triumph over our personal obstacles and challenges. No matter how inadequate we may feel at times, God is our cheerleader, inviting us to see just how wonderfully made and delightful a person we have grown to be. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of focusing on what we can do in the moment, to do our best with whatever we have and to not be afraid to use the gifts we’ve been given.

you are loved

What if I don’t know what my strengths are? What if I’m not talented at anything?

If you don’t know your own strengths and limitations, now is the perfect time to do a little personal reflection. Maybe go on a retreat, ask your friends and family for feedback, or spend some time alone to discover what is truly unique about YOU. If you think you are not talented at anything, YOU ARE WRONG. Everyone has gifts and talents and it is our life goal to discover and utilize those gifts.

“A rough and unshapen log has no idea that it can be made into a statue that will be considered a masterpiece, but the carver sees what can be done with it. So many…do not understand that God can mold them into saints, until they put themselves into the hands of that almighty Artisan.” ~ St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ultimately, when we stop comparing ourselves to others and start focusing on what God is calling us to, we refuse to be defined by others’ standards of success. Understanding and following the path God is calling each of us towards brings us to a more satisfying and fulfilling way of living. God knows exactly what we can excel best at and calls us to use those strengths. Start with what you know, build on your strengths, strive for what makes you feel alive, and let God do the rest.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Marianne Williamson

 

My friends, you are God’s beloved. You are more than good enough.

 

Yours truly,
a girl who dreams

**This article was originally posted on the Words of Witness Blog.