Immersed in Christ: April 26, 2020
The Third Sunday of Easter (Year A)
Finding Joy in Christ
What gives me the most joy in life? What do I do now to find joy? Have I ever decided on a formula for living a joyful life? Do I think religion is one?
The Entrance Antiphon assumes the whole world should find joy in God: “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy…. Proclaim his glorious praise.” And in the Opening Prayer we ask God to give us the kind of live, conscious hope in our own resurrection from the dead that, whether we are young or old, gives us the joy of eternal youth: “May we look forward with hope to our resurrection, for you have made us your sons and daughters, and restored the joy of our youth.” We have everlasting life because we have “become Christ” (St. Augustine). We are children of God: because “in Christ,” we are the “only-begotten Son of the Father.” Because we are members of his risen body, we share in his own divine life, life eternal.
The Responsorial (Psalm 16) gives the theme of the readings: If we live as Christ now, we will have now the joy of his life: “Lord, you will show us the path of life.”
Jesus Gives Life:
Acts 2: 14, 22-33 tells us that Jesus has “made known to us the path of life.” He did this, not only by his teachings, but above all by rising from the dead to show that he can give what he promises. Jesus is the Life: he “fills us with joy in his presence.” And because he is the Life, we can be sure that his Truth is the Way that leads to Life (see John 14:6; Psalm 86:11; Matthew 22:16).
It is not only the testimony of Christ’s resurrection that convinces us he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is also, and most immediately, the testimony of the Holy Spirit poured out in our hearts. The evidence to which Peter appeals in his first public proclamation of the Good News is the double sign of Christ’s resurrection and the manifestation of the Spirit in those who witnessed to him: “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at God’s right hand, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured him forth, as you see and hear.”
For us to bear witness to Christ as prophets, our lives have to be visible proof of the presence of Christ’s Holy Spirit in us. To do this we must show in our body language, words and actions the “fruit of the Spirit”: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). For now let us focus on joy.
1Peter 1: 17-21 tells us how to do this. It is not by “projecting an image” of joy; it is by realizing, remaining conscious that we have been “ransomed from the futile ways inherited from our ancestors, not with... silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.”
We read last Sunday, “In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith… tested by fire, may… result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
What makes our witness credible makes our joy a reality: “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1Peter 1: 6-9). We have joy, even when things are very difficult or painful for us, because we “believe in God who raised Jesus from the dead and gave him glory, so that our faith and hope are in God” — not in anything this world gives or promises.
They recognized him:
Luke 24: 13-35 shows us how we come to this faith and hope. It is first through encounter with Jesus: “Jesus drew near and walked with them.”
Secondly, it is through intellectual understanding: “He interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.” But intellectual knowledge is not enough; we have to experience God himself speaking to us through the Scriptures. It is a mystery and mystical experience of encounter: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Finally, we have to celebrate what we have experienced. We have to re-express it in our own words, and in more than words. Celebration involves the whole person: body, emotions, mind and will and action. The deepest (and most available!) celebration is Eucharist. The disciples did not really recognize Jesus until he “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them” — the Gospel formula for Eucharist. “With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
We too know Jesus “in the breaking of the bread.” It is in the Mass that we express and experience the mystery of our faith most clearly, most deeply, in its fullness. For this, however, we have to give “full, conscious, active” participation. We have to listen to the words, be aware of what they mean, try to mean them more every time we say them, make the Mass an authentic expression of our own faith, hope and love. Then in the Mass the “Lord will show us the path of life.”
What in my religion gives me joy? What else would if I focused on it with faith?
Decide to identify and absorb everything in my religion that is a source of joy.