By Diane DeVaughn Stokes
I want to tell you a story, one that was told to me when I was a kid. It is what I grew up to believe and hope it helps you, and your children and grandchildren tie the Easter season’s religious and secular issues up with a big beautiful bow.
Monsignor McCabe was the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Newark, New Jersey, where I grew up. He was the dearest, sweetest man whose love of his congregation was unending. Everyone adored him, even Protestants in the community. He was truly God’s representative on earth.
But it was his sermons that moved people to tears and enlightened hearts.
I fondly recall the sermon about why “Fish Don’t Bite on Sunday,” because it was the Lord’s day, and fish inherently knew they could not bite on the Sabbath, so don’t bother missing church on Sunday to go fishing. He always got his point across in the most unique ways.
But it was this one Easter sermon that has stuck with me throughout my entire life. Monsignor started the talk asking all of the kids to tell him about the candy they had gotten earlier that morning. One by one we rattled off “jelly beans, crème filled eggs, chocolate rabbits, marshmallow chicks.” Monsignor laughed and asked us why we did not bring him some candy this morning! Then in his gentle way he started to explain why we get sweets on Easter morning. “Does anybody know,” he asked?
There wasn’t a sound in the church as Monsignor filled us in about the secret connection to this season of confections.
It was early in the morning when Jesus pushed that rock away from His tomb and rose from the dead, and it was the rabbits who saw him first and started to hop all around spreading the “SWEET” message that Jesus, who died on the cross to save us from our sins, is now alive, and He will continue to live in our hearts and love us forever. That is why we continue the tradition today of giving sweets from the Easter Bunny on Easter morning. The rabbits were the bearer of the “best news ever” and Easter eggs are the sign of the new life that his resurrection gave us.
Well friends, I have always believed that story to be true. And who’s to say it isn’t true? There may not be any Biblical relevance to piece together Jesus with rabbits and candy, but it helped me and all the other kids to better understand the secular part of Easter and its tie to the most important part of Easter, the religious one.
Thank you, Monsignor McCabe, for your wisdom and beautiful symbolism that made Easter the SWEETEST holiday of all.
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