Saturday, April 7, 2012

Our joy in Easter

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

Our Christian faith is a faith of joy.

Joy is the note we hear in all the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection. “They departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.”

“The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.”

One my favorite Easter scenes is from Luke’s Gospel. Jesus appears out of nowhere to his disciples in Jerusalem. And Luke reports that they “disbelieved for joy and wondered.”

In other words: The disciples saw Jesus and they were so happy they could hardly believe their eyes.

This is the way Easter should make us feel.

Joy is what Jesus promised his disciples, again and again. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

In one of his parables, he compared his kingdom to a man who finds treasure buried in a field. The discovery fills the man with such joy that he runs off to sell everything he owns so he can buy that field.

This is how it should be with us. Knowing that Christ is alive should fill us with joy. Knowing that he is victorious over death should inspire us to imitate him, to live the life that he lives. It should make us want to run off to tell others about him!

Our Christian joy is not any ordinary feeling of satisfaction. It’s not about “feeling good.” Our joy is a deep spiritual emotion. It is the peace that comes from living as a witness to the Resurrection.

So we rejoice in his Resurrection during this beautiful season. We thank God for all his tender mercies in our lives. And we should commit ourselves once more to serving Jesus with joy and gladness.

Every day we need to get up and remember: We are children of God! Loved by our Father. Given a glorious inheritance in Jesus Christ — the promise of eternal life. Jesus has given each of us the task of cooperating with God in carrying out his great mission of salvation. The mission of making the risen Christ present in our world! What greater happiness and purpose could we want for our lives?

So we should be joyful — cheerful and optimistic in everything we do. People should be able to see Jesus in us. Christians should always make Christ present.

There is no room in our religion for doom and gloom or sadness and pessimism. We never want to deny Jesus by our attitudes or by our moods.

It’s hard sometimes to see past the suffering and troubles in our lives. It’s hard to be patient when we see injustices in our world. Christian joy is never an excuse to ignore pain or injustice. But it does give us a new perspective.

It’s good to remember that the apostles were able to rejoice, even in their worst trials and tribulations. This is a constant theme in the lives of the saints and martyrs.

The saints can rejoice because they know that Jesus is with us as our friend and companion through all our struggles and trials. When we share his cross and sufferings with love, we can share his resurrection. When we die with him, we also rise with him.

As Christians, if we’re feeling angry or pessimistic, it’s a sign that we need to do more interior struggle — with our pride, our ego, our selfishness. It’s always a battle, but we have to keep the battle up. And when we fail, we need to express contrition and begin again.

We need to always be striving to be closer to Jesus. This is the beautiful possibility we have because of his Resurrection. We can be closer to Jesus than the air we breathe. We can feel his love beating in our hearts. We can feel like St. Paul, who said, “I no longer live but Christ lives in me.”

The best way to stay close to Jesus is to dedicate every day to him. Try to set aside your own agendas and really seek his will in everything you do — in your work, in your family lives, in your communities. We want to live like Jesus did — by loving God and living for others.

St. Thomas Aquinas said in one of his biblical commentaries: “Everyone who wants to make progress in the spiritual life needs to have joy.”

Let’s make that our prayer for one another in this Easter season. Let’s pray for the grace to grow in Christian joy. I think we will see, as the apostles saw on that first Easter, that our joy will be contagious.

And let’s ask Mary, our Blessed Mother Mary, the cause of our joy, to help us to grow in our joy in her risen son.

Archbishop José H. Gomez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.

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