Many churches are half-empty much of the year, except on Easter, as I was reminded today when I encountered throngs of people, some with babies, crowding our parish church.
I wanted to ask some of them, especially the younger crowd: Why are you here? What motivates you to include Easter Mass as part of your holiday--especially if you come only once a year? Is it simply a cultural expectation, something to do, a place to show off your finery?
I suspect that for many it is the unspoken, because unconscious, awareness that there is a loss in their daily lives of some experience of the sacred, some contact with a spiritual reality greater than their daily lives of work and play. They somehow need to be with others as prayers are said and sung and new life proclaimed, even if the Biblical story of the Resurrection is a bit vague to many of them, because there is something missing in their inner lives.
I like to think that in a world that is full of violence and the fear generated by terrorists, in a world that seems meaningless, the churches provide a reminder of something larger and more meaningful and hopeful.
Richard Rohr and other mystical-global thinkers would probably add that, whether we know it or not, we sense the need for a connection with others. We need to move beyond isolation into solidarity with others since everything in the universe is connected.
The independent self is hopelessly limited; it cannot see the whole picture. Easter is about the cosmic reality of life overcoming death and providing a pattern of hope. We have to be part of a community that is hopeful.