1 Peter 3:18-22 / Matthew 28:16-20
These days after Easter are, for some, days of rest. For many schools, these days are days of holiday, and teachers and students rightly enjoy the rising of the Lord from the dead by not doing anything in particular. For many who work in and for the Church, these are also days of quiet. Choirs which had planned and prepared veritable towers of music through Lent and the Triduum, priests who had heard countless confessions and both risen early and gone to bed quite late to guide their flocks in worship, quite often take these days of Easter Week more gently. There is a drawing back, a being at rest.
Now, there is nothing as such wrong with this. On the human level, one cannot always produce at the highest levels, and if we desire to have the fulness of the celebration of the Triduum and of Easter, we will need to have some time away, some time to recover from the effort, gladly done, but effort nonetheless. On the spiritual level, it seems right that the celebration of the Octave, the memory of Easter Sunday as the eighth day, not merely the weekly sabbath, but the sabbath of eternal rest, should not find us busy and at work.
However, as this Octave draws near to its close, the Church reminds us today that Easter is not the ending of Christ's work. Even as it was the penultimate phase of Jesus' earthly ministry, which would come to a definitive close in the Ascension, Jesus Christ himself continued and continues his work from his throne above and through the Body, his Church. Indeed, even while his body lay in the Tomb, Jesus was not idle. Rather, He preached to those spirits who were in prison, descending to the depths in glory both to despoil Satan and his hosts and to free those who believed in him from the beginning of the world. Likewise, when Jesus risen from the dead appeared before the Eleven upon the mountain in Galilee, it was not once again to share freshly caught fish and baked bread, not another occasion to open their minds to the Scriptures, but to set them to work: Going, therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.
Our Easter, then, is not meant to be a time of drudgery and toil, but neither is it meant to be a time of idleness and rest. The work we have done in Lent, all the discipline, was meant to temper us, to make us fit instruments, sleek and supple members of Christ's Body, to respond to the Spirit's promptings at his slightest touch. Now, filled with the joy of Easter, empowered by him to whom all power is given ... in heaven and on earth, comforted by his reassurance that he will be with us all days, even to the consummation of the world, we are to go forth and proclaim the Good News of Christ, once slain, now raised to life unconquerable. Easter has come, and Jesus Christ has risen from the Tomb. The night of death has ended and the dawn of endless day has brightened the world. Confident in that light, we can go forth to do the day's work, knowing already in our hearts the peace and rest of the risen Christ that will know no end.