The Responsorial Psalm invites us to Easter joy - all year long: "Let all the earth cry out to God with joy"
(Psalm 66). The key to this joy, affirmed in all the readings, is seeing and believing. The Psalm continues: "Come and see the works of God .. Therefore let us rejoice in him."
Acts 8: 1-8 begins with persecution and the "lament" over Stephen. But it ends with "great joy" in the city where Philip, fleeing from persecution, proclaimed Christ and worked miracles. Those who "paid attention" to Philip's preaching and "saw the signs he was doing" found faith and joy. The pattern is seeing, believing, rejoicing - even in persecution.
In John 6: 35-40 Jesus promises: "Anyone who sees the Son and believes in him [will] have eternal life," joy now and forever. The source of our joy is Jesus himself, just the fact of knowing him, being in union with him, sharing his divine life: "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." In Christ we will find satisfaction, peace and joy.
What do we have to "see" in order to believe and receive this joy? In the first period of evangelization God supported the proclamation of the Gospel with "signs," miracles of healing and deliverance from demonic possession. But what people really saw in these signs was not just the miraculous event; they saw Jesus acting, proof that he was risen and alive. Miracles that don't reveal the person of God are worth nothing; they certainly don't lead to real faith or joy. What we need to see is Jesus alive in the members of his body on earth and acting through them. We don't need miracles to see this, just prophets, people acting in ways that cannot be explained without grace. When divine faith, hope and love are made visible in action, then people can "see the Son" and believe he is truly risen and alive. This is our joy.
A prophetic Church makes the Spirit of Jesus visible. Insistence on law observance doesn't do this; especially if we exclude from full participation sinners who are seeking greater union with Christ. Jesus said, "I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came, not do my own will, but the will of the one who sent me," which is "that I should not lose anything of what he gave me." Our first pastoral concern as Church should be to embody this same accepting love of Jesus and express it in all our ministries. If people are weak and failing, we need to draw them in, not drive them out. We want all the earth to "cry out to God with joy," finding his love in us.
Initiative: Be a prophet. Let people see Jesus in you, especially in the way you embody his love for the sinful, the struggling and the weak.