One recent evening just days before Easter found me sitting on the hardwood of our living room floor. My son had turned three, and this had been a long day of special breakfasts, paper-wrapped surprises, remote-control cars, and a Cookie Monster birthday cake. But now, as bedtime approached, I was sitting for a moment, watching my littlest children run circles around me, and constructing a to-do list in my head:
1. I need to buy white eggs for Easter-egg dyeing. (When can we schedule our annual egg dyeing without running into my oldest son’s basketball schedule?)
2. I need to buy candy and basket fillers for eight kids. (How will I find a moment to slip out without any of them accompanying me?)
3. I need to check that the boys’ dress pants and shoes fit properly before Easter Mass. (If they don’t, how can I convince the boys to partake of the joys of clothes shopping with their mother?)
“Here we go around the car, around the car, around the car . . .” Pint-sized preschoolers sang and danced in circles as a battery-operated blue plastic car ran through their legs. Screeching with excitement, they chased the car into the next room. Gabrielle, however, danced in my direction and landed on my lap.
“Tell me about angels,” she sighed dreamily as she snuggled her head against my chest. “Tell me about their wings and how they fly.”
Angels? Wings? She is a budding theologian, this four-year-old. I smoothed her hair and paused for a moment before responding.
“Angels don’t really have bodies,” I began. Gabrielle’s eyes narrowed.
“We sometimes draw angels with bodies to help us imagine them,” I continued. “But they really have no bodies and no wings. They are powerful spirits . . .”
“Mama, stop!” Gabby’s small hand covered my mouth in earnest. “You are ruining angels!”
I swallowed a smile. Was I? Does it ruin angels to hear the truth about them? Do we need to think that they have wings and fly in order to believe? Gabby’s cross expression told me that she surely thinks so. And the girl has a point. We do tend to believe most readily those things that we can sense; things become real for us when we touch them, taste them, and see them for ourselves.
Particularly difficult for me sometimes is the fact that the Easter message of peace and joy is contrary to many of my daily life experiences. Easter promises peace, but don’t bother looking for it at my house at the end of an Easter Sunday filled with wild egg hunts, missed naps, and jelly bean lunches. Easter promises joy, but you won’t see much of that in me on Easter Monday morning when I find every blessed corner of my home littered with candy wrappers and cellophane grass. Easter promises the triumph of life over death and of good over evil, but we all have work and worry. We have sickness and death. And most of us need look no further than our own living rooms to find disappointment, failure, and sin.
But God knows that. He knows our weakness and sin. He knows human evil and temptation. He knows our failures and lacking. And even more than that, He knows that some of us will never accept Him without first demanding proof of His love. It’s why He came. It’s why He bled and died on a cross. It’s why He rose from the dead on the third day.
“Put your finger here and see my hands,” He told Thomas. “And bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe” (Jn 20:27).
At Easter, our risen Lord says the same to each of us. He who knows our feeble minds invites us to see the nail marks, to touch His once-wounded flesh, and to hold His healed hands in our own. He who knows our weakness breathes on us to give us strength.
“Have you come to believe because you have seen me?” He asks. “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (Jn 20:29).
Believe, He tells us. Even when you don’t see, believe. Do we?