Easter Season 2024

04-01-2024Reflections and Resources

Alleluia! This Hebrew word is a powerful prayer which means “Praise the Lord!” It is a prayer we now voice to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead; it was absent from our liturgies during the season of Lent. The liturgical Easter season extends from Easter Sunday through Pentecost Sunday, May 19. The season includes Divine Mercy Sunday (the Second Sunday of Easter, April 7) and Ascension Thursday, May 9. The Fourth Sunday of Easter, this year celebrated on April 21, is often called Good Shepherd Sunday because the gospel reading is always one of the stories about Jesus, the Good Shepherd. The Sunday first readings during the Easter season are from the Acts of the Apostles, the story of the early Church, while the second readings, which focus on our lives as Christians, are all from the First Letter of John. Most of the Sunday gospel readings are from John’s gospel. You can read about The Acts of the Apostles (outline, themes, etc.) on Fr. Felix Just’s Catholic Resources webpage, catholic-resources.org/Bible/Acts.htm. Fr. Just also has a webpage with many resources regarding the Gospel and Letters of John at catholic-resources.org/John/Intro.html. You can prepare for every Sunday’s readings at liturgy.slu.edu/.

Divine Mercy Sunday was named in 2000 by Pope St. John Paul II during the canonization Mass of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska. On the Divine Mercy website (www.thedivinemercy.org/celebrate/greatgrace/dms), you will find an explanation of the feast as well as a link to the website for the National Shrine of Divine Mercy which is in Stockbridge, MA.  The website reminds us that it is “the merciful love of God that lies behind the whole Paschal Mystery — the whole mystery of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ — made present for us in the Eucharist”. Divine Mercy Sunday, with its celebration of the Eucharist, thus “highlights” the mercy of God that is made present to us, especially during this Easter season.

Pentecost Sunday (Pentecost is a Greek word which refers to 50 days) is celebrated on May 19 and signifies the end of the Easter season. Prior to its identification with the beginning of the Christian Church, this feast, also called Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks, was celebrated by the Jewish people. Prior to 70 A.D., Shavuot was primarily an agricultural feast, celebrating the beginning of the first harvest. Since the year 70, when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, it has been known mainly as a celebration of the giving of Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. Shavuot is observed in relation to the observance of Passover; it falls seven weeks after Passover, and this year it is celebrated from the nightfall of June 11 to the nightfall of June 13. In the year of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the observance of Pentecost, or Shavuot, coincided with the descent of the Holy Spirit, which we Christians now associate with the Feast of Pentecost. (See Acts 2:1-11, the first reading on Pentecost Sunday.) For more information about Shavuot, see the article at Judaism 101 (www.jewfaq.org/shavuot).

Every year, on Earth Day, we have the opportunity to put Catholic Social Teaching about the environment into practice; see the US Bishops’ webpage on environmental justice for more information on the Church’s teaching about the environment (bit.ly/USCCBenvironment). Earth Day this year is Monday, April 22; this year’s theme is “Planet vs. Plastics”. Earth Day has been observed since 1970; the Environmental Protection Agency was created by the federal government in response to the teachings and protests on the first Earth Day. Franklin has three Earth Day events planned over the weekend of April 20-21. See the Franklin Matters website (www.franklinmatters.org/2024/03/earth-month-2024-celebration.html) for more information.