I was listening to the radio the other night when I was surprised to hear the voice of someone I knew. I couldn’t work out who it was, and then she identified herself as a catechist from my old parish. She had rung up because the radio hosts weren’t sure of the connection of eggs with Easter. Now my friend, being a good Catholic, had been volunteering as a catechist, teaching the children why eggs are connected to Easter. And as she explained, the eggs symbolise the tomb: just as the chick emerges from egg, so does Christ emerge alive from the tomb, not simply grudgingly alive, but young and enthusiastic and uncontainable and thriving and powerfully dynamic.
The chick is also us. Baptised into the death of Jesus, we rise with him alive. Like the chick breaking out of the egg, we emerge from the darkness of the Easter Vigil into light. And this is the second meaning of Easter Eggs: eating and enjoying them like little children reminds us of the profound childlike joy we are called to live every day – with the lighthearted humorous slightly silly joy of children who delight in the constant sweet gifts given to them by their Father, in rock solid security.
But there is also a third meaning to Easter Eggs – a reverse of the first: not simply leaving the darkness but the destruction of darkness. For as we eat the egg, more and more light comes into the shell: and eventually, the shell, and the darkness, are completely gone! We know this reference very well. The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. When do we hear that? Christmas. Precisely? Midnight mass – the beginning of the dawn. It’s true that at Christmas, for the first time since the beginning of the world, the light begins to dawn in the world. But that that was then a speck of pure light -and even one little candle in a large darkened church lights up the church. But now the sun has risen: s-u-n, because the S-o-n has risen.
And there is a fourth thing it teaches us: that Jesus turns the bitterest sufferings into sweetness. There is perhaps no better example than the Egyptian martyrs of last week. Of course, what happened was totally unjustified and evil. But Jesus has triumphed utterly over evil. The Father has given all things into his hand. This is why Christians, unlike other people, need not be frozen by anxiety about the evil happening in the world, or even in our lives. In Jesus, death and evil is nothing to fear, because nobody, not even terrorists, not even the devil, can move a pinky finger without the permission of Jesus Christ. And the fact that even the worst evil anyone could ever throw, death, completely failed to conquer him is the proof of that.
While this is all marvellous, it doesn’t happen to us automatically. Jesus sends messengers – an angel, the women, tonight a priest, to announce this good news: but the women and the apostles have to choose whether to believe and act on it. The important question is not “What will they do?” It is: what will you do? What do I choose? A life like everyone else, or a life transformed by the Risen Jesus? If we wish there are three things we can do to make more room for him in our life at Easter: 1. Feast every day for the next fifty days. 2. Pray every day for the next 50 days – this is feasting of the heart. And 3. Share chocolate eggs with those around you for the next 50 days, explaining what they mean – and why it is so good for your happiness. Amen.