A priest I know periodically added to the Mass’s Prayers of the Faithful one that had shock-potential for worshippers. He would proclaim: “Let us pray for all those who are dead but don’t yet know it…” Taking a potshot at the walking dead among the Christian faithful who go to Mass out of routine or obligation, his intent was to awaken them from religious atrophy and cultic complicity. He always smiled when the congregation robotically mumbled their response: “…Lord, hear our prayer.”
While Easter reminds us of the central tenant of our faith—Christ’s rising from the dead—it also calls us to rise, to awaken from spiritual slumber and contribute vivaciously to our core belief. Easter People are those who are awakened to the reality of Our Lord’s resurrection and, therefore, live ebullient lives that reflect this grace-filled mystery. Several biblical passages, from Isaiah to Ephesians to Romans, challenge us to be awake in this precious faith with which we have been gifted. “Awake from your slumber, arise from your sleep” is our scriptural warning to not nod off in our spiritual venture but to be ever aroused because of our relationship with the Risen Christ.
To be awakened in the time-tested spiritual sense is quite different from being woke in the contemporary cultural sense. The Woke Ideology, popular in today’s political landscape, refers to the capacity to fully comprehend social issues of our times. Some have compared the Woke Movement to a religion that adheres to many commandments with lots of “Though shalts” and “Though shalt nots.” Political parties, like religious denominations (and homes associations and country clubs…), operate that way. But faith in the Resurrected Lord is quite different: the very essence of its awakened state is that it neither clings to nor rejects what is before it. Consider Jesus’ instruction to Mary Magdalene at the tomb on Easter morning: “Do not cling to me…” Unlike political movements and religious structures that cling to specific codes of thought and behavior while rejecting others that do not conform, spirituality does not cling to things or ideas, not to people or even historical narratives. At the same time, it does not reject them but, like Jesus, it seeks to make all things new, giving new understanding to former suffering, sorrow, slavery, sin, and sadness, and giving new reality to life-itself when it grows tired, burdensome, routine, weary, or dead.
Though it is common for Republicans, Democrats, Catholics, or atheists to be woke to their particular belief system about society and core ideology, it is less common, perhaps impossible, for them to live an awakened existence, which requires an intent to neither cling nor reject. A worthy goal for Christians at this time of year, then, is to become Easter People. These are the people who rise above cultic ideologies of religions, political parties, societal trends, with all their commands and laws, to focus, instead, on Christ’s law of love and respond to what is placed before them in a mindful, awakened manner. We all know these people; they are the wonderful examples that show us how to wake up and rise above. Like butterflies hovering over caterpillars and cocoons, they inspire us to new heights of existence—soaring beyond former states of being—to live anew in and through our Redeemer.