Usually Easter reminds most people of the newness and freshness of life as the green shoots bud and the leaves appear. However this year March has been experienced as an extension of our winter. This stands in such a contrast to the previous March when we enjoyed a heatwave which turned out to be our summer.
I was reminded of the fact when calling into a family’s home after celebrating an anniversary Mass. Over twenty people crowded into the house at the thought of tea and sandwiches, anything which would have warmed us against the chill of another March evening.
Foolishly a number of us braved the extension at the back of the house which, with three outside walls and the absence of heating we had to try warming up by huddling together as the gas heaters where lit.
At this point we were reminded how last year people were complaining of sunburn when gathered in the same room whilst this year frost bite was a more relevant concern.
All these thoughts were tempered by the reality of how we had escaped the worst of the weather.
Whilst we are rarely threatened by the extremes we still like to complain about the relentless cold.
There exists a school of thought how we could cope with a bad or severe winter if there was any likelihood we might enjoy a good summer.
Even so there is little we can do to control the weather and it’s one of those factors in life over which we have no control. Our levels of frustration are always more intense when confronted with our powerlessness and reminded of our mortality and vulnerability.
In most occasions in life we aren’t very good when trying to cope with change, with those elements which are unpredictable. Whatever about the physical and natural elements the storms of life can be profound and transforming moments. These are the occasions when we are forced either to sink or to swim. When our world has been shattered or turned upside down, we long for the past; for the times when we were reassured with what was familiar, safe and cosy.
These were the days when we found comfort and reassurance in the old routines and daily chores.
When confronted by death or another family or human tragedy we can feel as if all the supports and foundations on which we had relied have come crumbling down.
We can be left shattered and bereft of hope as dreams and plans are torn down and left in the dust and dirt.
When we try to construct our lives around our own visions and images of what happiness and success might mean we can become sorely exposed.
Especially when what people relied on for finding contentment, peace and happiness and for providing meaning in our lives turns out to be false and illusionary. On these occasions we can become crippled by fear and hurt.
Haunted by our past mistakes and failures we feel we are labelled and stigmatised for the rest of our days.
We retreat into our shells and we stop living; we fail to embrace life again.
The apostles in the wake of the events of Holy Week and Easter find themselves in a new land, foreign territory where the old world and familiar ways no longer make sense.
Worse still, Jesus’ disciples find themselves overcome with confusion and doubt. The hopes and dreams they had placed on Jesus have seemingly been shattered and have come tumbling down and in one real sense they have been destroyed forever. For the close companions of Jesus the newness of the Resurrection is still shrouded in the mists of misunderstanding and incomprehension. Only through their encounter with the Risen Christ will they be able to fully understand the recent events and happenings. In the scene by the lakeside we find Jesus by a charcoal fire reminiscent of the charcoal fire on Holy Thursday night at which Peter stood as he denied knowing Jesus three times. On this occasion Jesus builds Peter up and empowers him three times through making his triple acclamation of faith in Jesus.
The apostles had fled back to Galilee and when Jesus discovered them they had returned to their old way of life. Despite returning to what was familiar they had caught nothing and only through encountering the Risen Lord do they experience God’s gift of over abundance in their catch of fish. Recognising how Jesus has risen from the dead, Peter is not only built up and reassured he is also confronted with the nature of his own death. Yet having been reconciled and healed of his past Peter is galvanised and so encouraged to hand his life over to be shaped and led by God’s call. Peter and the disciples are no longer able to go back to their own ways because life and death have been transformed and changed forever. Easter is the season of hope and rebirth, when we celebrate how Jesus will lead those who trust in him to the homeland of eternal life.