Reading: Deuteronomy 26:1-4, 10b-11
Holy Saturday is a rough day for us Catholics, I think. We started last Sunday with a triumphant procession with palms, only to end with the death of Jesus in the Passion. On Thursday, we gathered for the joyful celebration of the institution of the Eucharist – an incredible gift from our God – but then, yesterday, we ended the week by realizing the cost of that Eucharist: the Passion and death of our Lord. It’s been a roller coaster week of death and life, of triumph and disappointment, of joy and sadness. And today, well, today’s even harder. We have the memory of the cross fresh in our minds from yesterday. And we know the joy that’s coming tomorrow. But for now, all we can do is wait.
And we’re not so good about waiting, are we? We live in a culture where we want immediate gratification. But all we can do today is gaze on the sealed up tomb, symbolized in our church by the empty tabernacle, the extinguished sanctuary lights, and the stripped altar. We are absolutely yearning for life to burst forth from the tomb and destroy death forever. And it will, but not yet.
This reminds me of when I was a kid, and mom would start cooking for Easter. Days before, she would prepare Easter calzone, a traditional Italian Easter food that her father used to make. She would bake lamb cakes made of Aunt Mia’s sour cream pound cake recipe, one of my two favorite versions of that cake. The smells would be incredible, and we longed to nibble on the jellybeans that decorated the lamb cake, or have just a little slice of the calzone. And we’d get to do that, but not yet.
Not yet because it’s not Easter yet, and we’re still observing the Paschal Fast, still waiting, still hoping, praying and believing. There will be joy in the morning, but for now, all we can do is wait … even as our hungry tummies growl, as we smell the wonderful things baking in the kitchen.
Food gives us powerful memories, especially on feasts like this. We always remember the things we ate on Easter Sunday, or on Christmas, and even the Irish soda bread on Saint Patrick’s day! In so many ways, the food we prepare and eat reminds us of who we are, reminds us of those we love, and reminds us of the wonderful mysteries that we celebrate. It’s important to cook our traditional foods because they are gifts to us from the One who provides food for our stomachs as well as food for our souls. It’s important that young people learn to make these foods so the tradition doesn’t end, and that they hear the stories of those great traditions so that the grace will live on. The children need to know who we are as a people of faith and why we do what we do, and eat what we eat.
We gather here today then, to thank our Maker for providing for us once again. We ask his blessings on the feasts of tomorrow, just as he has blessed us with the whole reason for tomorrow. We remember the stories of our family traditions, as well as The Story that brings us together on Holy Week and Easter. The time is almost here. The fast is almost over. We eagerly await the Feast and the feasting.