The Church has wrapped up another Lenten season and celebrated Easter Sunday. The joy of the Resurrection is upon us. Perhaps now is the time for Lenten reflections or maybe you have already left the Easter season and are back to the menial tasks of everyday life. Wherever you are at, you can recall that Easter is the pinnacle of Christian celebration. The pinnacle of joy.
For many, or maybe for most, we can reflect on Lent and see where we wish we could have done better or areas that we want to try and do better on next year. This realization is all too common for those that suffer from mental illness. The barriers that Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Eating Disorders, panic attacks etc. present during Lent can feel defeating and are fertile ground for feelings of despair. If you struggle with mental illness, the season of Lent and its added obligations and duties may feel even more overwhelming. If you felt alone on Easter Sunday amidst the joy of those around you wondering when you will feel joy, then the Easter message is especially relevant to you.
It is the story of Easter that is important, not the feeling of joy that may be unattainable for those suffering from mental illness. Let us look to Pope John Paul II for guidance on this matter.
“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
This message is so beautiful for the suffering souls who have mental illness. We are an Easter people. Easter did not just happen 2000 years ago, three days after Jesus died. It happens every day in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Hallelujah is our song because Jesus offers us the gift of the resurrection every time we partake in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
For the suffering souls of mental illness, the cross of mental illness can feel so heavy. It is ever present or perhaps a cross that continuously reappears. But dear suffering souls, as much as the cross reappears, so does the resurrection. Good Friday is not Good without Easter and Easter has no joy without Good Friday. Easter does not have to be celebrated only once a year. Easter can be celebrated throughout the year. At each communion. When we partake of the Eucharist, we become one with Jesus. This is how we live out what Saint Pope John Paul II is saying. When we partake of the Eucharist, despair has no place.
So my brothers and sisters suffering from mental illness, we are an Easter people. And Hallelujah is our song, too. We do not need a special day of the year to celebrate Easter. We do not have to pretend to feel joy on Easter Sunday. Blessed be God for all those who felt joy on Easter. Blessed be Christ for his death and resurrection. And all praise and glory to God for offering us the gift of Easter whenever we partake of the Eucharist.
When we reflect upon our journey, let us not leave Lent and Easter behind. Let us carry them with us throughout the year. Let us renew our commitment in Christ by partaking of the Holy Eucharist as much as possible throughout the year. We are not just an Easter people on Easter Sunday. To be an Easter people is to live our baptismal promises every day, throughout each year. This is how we can find the joy in Easter throughout the year. This is how we can find the joy of Easter in mental illness. Let us not bear our cross and forget about the resurrection. We must bear the crosses of mental illness through frequent confession and partaking in the Eucharist. And let us not wait until next year to try again at our Lenten promises or to seek the joy of the resurrection. Let us start right now. Each day let us renew our baptismal promises. It is then that we can truly leave despair behind and be always an Easter people.