Posted by Ronan Scully in Features.

Many children, including my own, are a tad confused about who the Easter Bunny is, while both children and adults are confused about the real meaning of Easter.

For some, it means new clothes and a chance to show them off, for others it means eggs, sweets, chocolates, special meals and parties. The school holidays have become the highlight of the season.

But Easter is also a time of renewal. It is relatively easy to renew things outwardly—with new clothes or a new hairstyle—but renewal on the inside is more difficult. Problems or sadness from the past can haunt one’s memory. Broken relationships can undermine our self-esteem. Guilt over missed opportunities and failed goals, pain from rejection or abandonment, loneliness and anger from past hurts can sometimes create a swirling inner turmoil, from which escape is difficult.

Where does one find inner renewal? Some look to family, friends or colleagues, who can be of great help in times of need. Counsellors and self-help books provide coping skills to help us through things or to look at things anew. But maybe a look at the first Easter could also offer some clues.

Easter Egg time

John Scully was born with a broken body and a slow mind. At 12 years of age, he was still in second class and seemed unable to learn. His teacher, Mary Dunne, often became exasperated with him. He would squirm in his seat and make irritating noises. At other time, he spoke clearly and distinctly, as if a spot of light had penetrated the darkness. One day Mary called his parents in for a consultation.

“John really belongs to a special school. It isn’t fair to him to be with younger children who don’t have learning problems,” she told them. Mrs Scully told Miss Dunne that there wasn’t a school of that kind nearby. Besides, John really liked it, where he was.

Mary sat for a long time after they had left, staring out the window. She wanted to sympathise with the Scullys, but it wasn’t fair to keep him in her class. She had 27 other youngsters to teach. Furthermore, he would never lean to read and write. As she pondered the situation, guilt washed over her. ‘Here I am complaining when my problems are nothing compared to that poor family’ she thought. From that day on, she tried hard to ignore John’s noises in class.

New life

Spring came and the children talked excitedly about the coming Easter. Mary told them the story of Jesus and then, to emphasise the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of them a large plastic egg.

“I want you to take home and bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life,” she said.

The children responded enthusiastically but John said nothing. Had he understood what she had said about Jesus’s death and resurrection? Did he understand the assignment?

The next morning, 28 children came to school, placing their eggs on Miss Dunne’s desk. In the first egg, Mary found a flower. “Oh yes, a flower is a sign of new life,” she said. “When plants peek through the ground, we know that spring is here.”

The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, which looked very real. Mary held it up. “We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly. Yes, that’s new life too.”

Mary opened the third egg and gasped. It was empty and she knew immediately that it was John’s. He did not understand her instructions, she thought. If only she had remembered to phone his parents to explain it to them. She quietly set the egg aside.

Just then, John spoke up. “Miss Dunne, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?” he asked.

Flustered, Mary replied, “But John, your egg is empty.” He looked into her eyes and said softly, “Yes, but Jesus’s tomb was empty, too.”

“Jesus was killed and put in there. Then his Father raised Him up,” he said.

Mary cried and the cold inside her melted away completely. Three months later, John died. Those who paid their respects at the mortuary were surprised to see 27 eggs on top of his coffin, all of them empty!

Thought of the week

As your thought for this week, look at the things in your world that show new life and think about how you can share that new life with those around you, especially those most in need.