Cicadapalooza 2021

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord


Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Christos anesti! Alithos anesti! ¡Cristo ha resucitado! ¡En verdad ha resucitado!

Something that happened last in 2004 will occur in a few weeks up and down the Eastern United States. Washington DC is a hot spot, but Virginia might see little action. Brood X/10 has been running around underground, feeding, molting, growing these last 17 years. And when temperatures a foot below ground hit 64°, millions will emerge, in places as many as 25-30 per square foot. They will molt one last time. And in the next 2-4 weeks, they have one goal, the survival of their species. The males will sing loud and long to attract females. It’s a lot of pressure but most of their time above ground will be spent feeding and creating the next generation. Then they will lay eggs and die leaving behind heaping piles of their carcasses. Welcome to Cicadapalooza 2021.

The lifecycle of annual cicadas range from 1 to 9 or more years. Most of this is as larvae underground. Any number of them will emerge above ground each year, but in no synchronized pattern. Brood X is one of the largest of 15 periodical cicada broods in the US. 3 broods emerge every 13 years, 12 every 17 years. This prevents them from becoming any predator’s preferred food source because who wants to hang around and feed only every 13-17 years?

3 species of cicadas make up Brood X and are known for their fire-engine-red eyes, the deafening noise they make, and their dramatic arrival every 17 years. Now every species has a survival strategy. Some use camouflage, some have killer claws or jaws, some are poisonous or just taste awful. But Brood X cicadas are not so lucky. Pretty much everything that eats them consider them a tasty treat—dogs, birds, reptiles, even some people. Their defense is that when they show up, they all show up. It doesn’t matter how many of them get eaten. There’s always enough of them left to keep making new ones. In scientific circles, this is referred to as the predator-satiation defense.

I know it’s a stretch. But you’ve heard the joke about Jesus rising from the dead, seeing his shadow, going back in, and we have 6 more weeks of winter. Cicadas don’t have that option. Once out of the ground, they have 2-4 weeks to fulfil their purpose. No time for dawdling. Jesus accomplished all he came to accomplish before facing the agony of the cross. But it would have all been for nothing if he did not rise from the dead as he promised. The resurrection was not accompanied by angelic trumpets and choruses. Instead Jesus rose when no one was watching. And only those who see the signs and grasp the mystery with eyes of faith who can share his victory. As he has done, so he calls us to do. He leaves behind the limits and weaknesses of his human nature and is restored to the glory he had as God with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Cicadapalooza happens at predictable intervals involving a cast of trillions. But ultimately nothing much is changed, nothing is transformed. It’s simply a perpetually recurring cycle of natural urges and actions, of birth and death, of feeding and growing and molting and scrambling to win the affections of others to ensure their survival as a species. It requires no embrace of the cross although some of them do get eaten. But there is no redemptive suffering, no healing of ancient ruptures in the order of grace, no reconciliation with the Creator, no invitation to gather at the eternal wedding banquet, no promise of glory for ages unending. It’s just hordes of cicadas doing their thang.

When we live a purely earthly life governed by our natural urges and our drive to survive, to be born and to die, to feed and grow and possess things and consume junk food and social media and make noise to annoy the neighbors and amass piles and piles of wealth and scramble to win the affections of others so we can leave everything behind to those who come after, from a distance it just looks like human being hordes doing their thang. Since we sit at the top of the food chain, our survival strategy consists in blowing away the competition. And as we satisfy our appetites for selfish pride and influence and lust and greed, these appetites end up devouring us and turning us into market trends and consumer statistics until like Brood X we spend ourselves useless and are nothing but a heaping pile of carcasses. Nothing is truly changed. Nothing is transformed. It is just another episode in the long running cycle of passing creatures who consume snacks or become snacks others consume, some fly-by-night sensation, some one-hit-wonder, but still just a heaping pile of creature carcasses.

We are not just a heaping pile of creature carcasses. Our lives are not perpetually recurring cycles of natural urges and the drive to survive, to be born and to die, to feed and grow and possess and consume and make annoying noises and amass wealth and scramble to win affections. We are not just human being hordes doing our thang. We have been changed by the passion and death of Christ. He put death to death and won remission for our sins. He healed the estrangement between us and God and reconciled us with one another. He embraced death to give us new life. St. Paul declares, “Our old self was crucified with Christ, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.” We are now children of the Eternal Father. We are now sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ. We are now members one of another. “If then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, we too must think of ourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”

This day we begin a season of renewal and rebirth. It’s a limited comparison as a global pandemic rages around us, but the struggle to begin anew and sustain that new life is a struggle to convince minds and hearts we can be victorious. Our natural urges will have us doing our own thang, punching the clock, paying our dues, running the rat race, barely surviving but exhausted, traumatized, disheartened, adrift. Jesus risen from the dead offers us new life, direction, and purpose. So while we still live this passing existence our hunger is fed, our wounds are healed, our weakness is strengthened.

Cicadapalooza 2021 will soon be a thing of the past. But the risen Jesus who transforms us this Easter has power also to transform the world. As he has done, so he calls us to make happen. He left behind the limits and weaknesses of his human nature and was restored to the glory he had as God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. So we must leave behind our limits and weaknesses and live as children of the Eternal Father, sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ, and members one of another.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Christos anesti! Alithos anesti! ¡Cristo ha resucitado! ¡En verdad ha resucitado!

Rolo B Castillo © 2021