There was a pious, young priest; who lived almost fully on yeast; ‘for’, he said, ‘it is plain; we must all rise again; and I want to get started at least’.” This is but a limerick about some pious priest subsisting solely on yeast. However, today, as we celebrate the greatest of all Christian feasts, Easter, each of us could strive to be the “yeast of Easter”: people who proclaim new life and never-ending joy to our world.
Easter celebrations must be seen in the light of the Jewish “Passover” — Greek, Pascha — commemorating the Exodus “passing over” from Egyptian slavery to freedom, darkness to light, death to new life. Every year, this peak event was celebrated in Jewish households with a memorial meal comprising of a sacrificial lamb, unleavened bread (i.e., bread without yeast) and herbs. It was also customary to destroy every trace of yeast (chametz or leaven) as a sign that the old was overcome to usher in the new.
When Jesus celebrated his Last Supper, he heralded a “New Passover” where, instead of a paschal lamb, he offered his life on the Cross — freely and unconditionally given out of love for his friends, and as the price he paid for his fight against untruth, injustice and adharma. However, before his death, he foretold that he would rise again. And, rise he did! That is what Christians celebrate today: new life as foretaste of eternal life to come.
When the Crucified-Risen Christ meets his shocked disciples — Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, Thomas and others — three things happen: (a) Their fear and sorrow is turned to joy; (b) They begin to firmly believe that selfless sacrifice is the sure pathway to new life; and (c) They become messengers of Easter, proclaiming: “Jesus lives!”
In his “Parable of the Yeast” Jesus teaches us that a very small quantity of yeast can cause the whole mass of dough to rise. You and I are like yeast: small and insignificant; yet, with an amazing capacity to enliven, enlighten and enthuse others. This is what Easter challenges us to do.
Last Sunday, during worship, many Egyptian Christians were wounded or killed in two bomb blasts.
Yet, this Sunday, they worship the Crucified-Risen Christ with the firm faith that love, not hatred; forgiveness, not vengeance; and life, not death; is the triumphant terminus of our lives.
“We are an Easter people!” Pope John Paul II said many years ago. He meant that despite evil, hatred, violence and death all around us, believers in Easter courageously continue with their works of love, service and self-sacrifice. Rather than the limerick-priest subsisting solely on yeast, let us be yeast so that we celebrate Easter not just today, but everyday.