March 13, 2017

Lenten Reflection: Easter is a Time of Great Joy

The Resurrection of Christ Icon

Father Lance Harlow

There is one word to describe the impact that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead has had on those who believe. That one word is joy. In the Gospel of Matthew, which is read at the Easter Vigil Mass (Mt 28:1-10), Mary Magdalene and the other women who go to the tomb on Easter Sunday are “overjoyed” at the news from the angels that Jesus has been raised from the dead. The angels tell the women to go quickly to inform the apostles and to go to Galilee where they will see Jesus with their very own eyes. This sequence of events might remind you of what happened 33 years earlier to some shepherds who were tending their flocks at night, when angels appeared to them and told them to go to Bethlehem to see the newborn King of the Jews.

Joy, then, is the proper human response to contact with the realm of angels and the glory of God. It is the disposition of a heavenly life — a Christian life. Joy breaks forth into our human experience like the sunshine breaking through the clouds after a downpour. The joy of heaven breaks into our reality. But the question is: How do I capture that joy? Is it like trying to capture something as ineffable as sunlight? And the answer is we don’t have to capture it. Joy belongs to us by grace through baptism and is intended to become an habitual disposition of the soul: a good habit.

We do have joy in our soul. The challenge for us is to use it!

The state of being joyful can be considered a spiritual adverb to my life. That is, it modifies my every action. And, yes, sometimes it requires great effort. But the beauty of God’s love and generosity is that when I make the effort to be joyful, the Father in heaven lavishes His grace upon me, and the grace within my soul swells and overflows into every interpersonal encounter. That effusion of grace not only benefits my soul but my body as well. One can recognize a joyful person by the way he or she looks. It’s in the smile, the bright eyes and the attentiveness to the other.

If you’re not quite that joyful yet, maybe it’s time for some spring cleaning to get rid of the bad habits that are choking out the joy. Those bad habits would include on the interior level: pessimism, cynicism, faultfinding and complaining. On the exterior level, it would include: eye rolling, sneering, sighing and mumbling at someone under one’s breath.

The resurrection of Jesus has ushered in a new reality. No longer do we exist under the dominion of sin, disappointment and death. We live in the Kingdom of God whose members are identified by their joyful lifestyle rooted in the knowledge that no sorrow, distress or disaster can rob us of the joy of knowing and loving Jesus. Let us, then, go quickly and joyfully to tell the whole world how He has changed us!

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