Christianity’s ‘most important day,’ a beginning

Christians whose religious observances are based on the Gregorian calendar ended their Lenten journey this weekend, embracing the hope that is at the foundation of today’s Easter celebration.

Orthodox Christians who are observing Palm Sunday today under the Julian calendar and whose Easter celebration will take place next Sunday are preparing for solemn Holy Week observances and services similar to those that many of their fellow Christians participated in during the past week.

Meanwhile, members of the Jewish community at sundown on Friday began their weeklong Passover observance that commemorates spiritual redemption, God’s power, freedom and community.

“I have come to see that Christianity’s most important day recapitulates Passover,” wrote R. R. Reno, editor of the religious journal First Things, in the 2017 Easter weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. “Both holidays face head-on the daunting power of death — and both announce God’s greater power of life.”

Such thoughts are beyond the comprehension of the young, whose Easter anticipation centers on colorful Easter eggs, the Easter Bunny and what they’ll find in their Easter baskets, although many parents try to instill in their children that there’s an even bigger meaning behind the holiday.

The holiday, which hasn’t escaped commercialization, nevertheless hasn’t relinquished what some people describe as religious purity, due to its magnanimous message about Jesus Christ having risen from the dead.

Referring to the hope that’s part of the Easter feast, Pope Francis, on Easter Sunday two years ago, stressed that the risen Jesus “makes us sharers of his immortal life and enables us to see with his eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence.”

That might be true for believers who are open to such messages, but unfortunately, so many people in the world seem to want no part of them, even though they profess loyalty to God.

Each Easter and each Passover require acknowledgment of that shortcoming amid all of the good that they signify.

On Palm Sunday a year ago, Pope Francis made the important observation that Jesus “does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs or in the videos that circulate on the Internet.” Francis pointed out that Jesus wants all to understand his presence in those suffering, including “women and men who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded.”

For many, that suffering doesn’t diminish or go away amid such important religious observances as are in progress today and what will take place in the days ahead.

Nevertheless, amid the hope that’s at the foundation of Easter and Passover and the joy that surrounds both of them, there are other reasons that central Pennsylvania can express pride in the way its residents respond.

Can central Pennsylvania not feel hopeful when efforts such as Easter for Eli — which delivers Easter baskets to hospitalized young cancer patients — are performing their wonderful deeds?

That and other efforts aimed at providing hope for people in need surely represent what’s at the heart of Jesus’ triumph.

Experience the joy and fun associated with this important holiday, but never lose sight of its significant message.

People should strive to make today a beginning, rather than just the culmination of much preparation.