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  • Writer's pictureImmersed in Christ

The Joy of Life in Christ

Sunday, April 23, 2023, Third Sunday of Easter

by Fr. David M. Knight


View readings for today:


What gives me the most joy in life? Have I ever sat down and tried to figure out the formula for a joyful life? What do I do to find joy in life? Do I think of my religion primarily as a source of joy? What do I think religion is? How do I experience my own religion?


The Entrance Antiphon declares that the whole world should find joy in God: “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy…. Proclaim his glorious praise.” The (alternative) Opening Prayer asks God to call us into action in response to his word: “Strengthen your Church to answer your call,” to be like those people “once in darkness” who “listened to your Word and followed your Son as he rose from the tomb.” We want to “rise and come forth into the light of day.” This is where we will find joy: in responding to God with life on the level of God.


Where will this energy come from? Like the sun that calls plants into life after the cold and darkness of winter, God’s face shining on us will revive us, no matter what our sins and failures have been. This is the theme of the Responsorial Psalm: “Lord, let your face shine on us” (Psalm 4). It is theme of all the readings.


Reform for Restoration:

Acts 3: 13-19 tells us nothing is lost, no matter how badly we have failed. Even though God’s people “disowned the Holy and Just One” and preferred a murderer instead, “putting to death the Author of life,” Peter promises restoration to life in God’s love: “Turn to God, that your sins may be wiped away!”


Turning means action. The load-bearing word in Peter’s exhortation is “Reform your lives.” The motivation and strength to do this comes from the assurance that God will forgive and restore us to life as he raised Jesus from the dead. “Lord, let your face shine on us.” Seeing what God is like, we know that he will “relieve us when we are in distress,” “hear us when we call upon him,” “put gladness into our hearts,” and “bring security to our dwelling.” This is the faith that gives us strength, joy and courage to change.

But this faith is expressed — and becomes real — only when we take action to change. Change is the expression of hope. Change is faith being operative. Change is the “forward motion” of love. Change is the key to life.


Our baptismal consecration as prophets committed us to live lives of constant change, constantly modifying our lifestyle to make everything we do, say, own and choose bear witness to the values of Christ. A life of constant change is a life of continual conversion. Only this bears credible witness to the presence of God’s divine life within us. Only this is proof that we are in a listening relationship with the Holy Spirit.


“Be perfect….”

1John 2: 1-5 tells us “the way we may be sure that we know [God] is to keep his commandments.” John is not saying we have to be totally without sin; he is saying we have to be trying to live as Jesus taught — not just to “avoid sin,” but to “keep his word.”

To do this we have to know God’s word, and keep reflecting on it to know it more and more. We have to be disciples if we want to live as prophets. Our goal has to be the perfection of love. We try to keep God’s word in such a way that “the love of God is truly perfected in us.” This is the teaching of Vatican II: “Every Catholic must therefore aim at Christian perfection (cf James 1:4; Romans 12:1-2)” and “Thus it is evident to everyone that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity” (Decree on Ecumenism , no 4; The Church no. 40).


“You are witnesses….”

Luke 24: 35-48 shows us the importance of the body in evangelization. The disciples “thought they were seeing a ghost” until Jesus said, “Touch me… a ghost does not have flesh and bones as I do.” In the same way, the message of Christianity seems unreal and fantasy-like to people until believers become witnesses by embodying it in the flesh-and-blood reality of their lifestyle. Pope Paul VI said that when Christians “radiate their faith in values that go beyond current values… through this wordless witness they stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: ‘Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them?’…. For the Church the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life.... People today listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if they do listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (Evangelization in the Modern World, nos. 21, 41).


Jesus said “repentance” (conversion to new life, “life to the full”) is to be preached to all nations. This, says Paul VI, is “the essential mission of the Church…. She exists in order to evangelize,” which is “first of all to bear witness” by living “an authentically Christian life” (14, 26, 41). To keep striving for that is to be a prophet.


It is for this that we pray, ““Lord, let your face shine on us” — that our lives might reflect the light and joy of his love to the whole world.


Insight: What in my life stirs up “irresistible questions” in the hearts of those who see how I live? Am I making changes in my lifestyle inspired by the Gospel?


Initiative: Decide to find your joy in the excitement of bearing witness to Christ’s truth.


Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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