When my children were younger, we used to go to the Easter Vigil Mass. As a result, Easter morning was at home. The Easter Bunny visited the night before and left not only an Easter basket with candy and small toys, but also eggs hidden around the house. As the Bunny had done for me, he left one egg for each child with the child’s name written on it in wax crayon before being decorated. The other eggs were up for grabs, but only you were allowed to find your own egg, the one especially crafted and decorated for you. This tradition perhaps unintentionally passed on a Scriptural notion: “I have called you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1) Jesus knows each one of us by name. Jesus calls each one of us to be his beloved. God as Creator is also the parent of each one of us and loves each person as a child is loved: by name, uniquely, deserving of special and hidden gifts.
One year after both of our children had left for college, there was an Easter basket for their return home but no egg hunt. We figured that our 18-year-old had outgrown the tradition and would no longer be interested. We were wrong. “Why are there no hidden eggs?”
It only took one look at his face for me to realize that at every age, we want the chance to be a child again, the chance to play. At an egg hunt, we play expectantly, searching with the belief that the gifts are there to be found.
The celebration of Easter as a liturgical season extends well beyond Easter Sunday. One way to stay with the 50-day season is to read the post-Resurrection encounters that the Gospel authors record and to consider: Where do I find myself in these stories?
In many of these narratives, Jesus speaks the names of his friends. Jesus says, “Mary,” to Mary of Magdala, and that is how she recognizes him (John 20:16). When Jesus and Peter reconnect after breakfast on the beach, Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (21:15) To a group of disciples fishing, he asks, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” (21:5)
I am especially intrigued by that last name, “children,” because it reminds me of the ways that it is often easier for us to connect to God when we are more like children: open-hearted, spontaneous, ready to go hunting for God’s gifts, and ready to be surprised by God. God is the one who acts, and we receive God’s gifts, but to be receptive, we also need to have an attitude of expectant playfulness. Maybe it’s an attitude of looking for the good in others at our next social gathering. Maybe it is being on the lookout for wildlife on a nature walk. Maybe it is specially decorating Easter eggs for our adult children or other adult family members. Maybe it is being playful with God in prayer and knowing God can be playful with us in return.
This Easter, I am thinking about finding God in all things as akin to undertaking a treasure hunt. Although there is much suffering in the world, we are invited not only to await the God who calls us by name, but also to go hunting for the divine and expect God to show up, because, in fact, God is already there. Like the Easter eggs hidden around the house, God has gifts with our names already written on them. Perhaps the greatest gift is recognizing that in the moments of God’s ongoing self-revealing, we are reminded that God is really there and waiting for us to be childlike enough to find and be found.