A sheath of sound shatters the silence: Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ, our King, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation! Huddled together with tapers lit, we delight in the Easter proclamation, the Exsultet, as it announces the mystery of our salvation. Uniquely chanted at the Easter Vigil, this great hymn lifts our minds and hearts to rejoice in Christ’s triumph over sin and death. Resurrection is astonishing. Easter begins with the Exsultet so that we might once again share the joyful surprise of the first disciples. Joy is the first fruit of Easter amazement.
I recently came across the Annual Gallup Poll report that surveys a wide swath of folks about daily life. One of the results which made me take notice was the response to the question: Do you find joy and satisfaction in your daily work? The result: only about 30% of people answered in the affirmative. Of the other 70%, some say that they are extremely unhappy in their life’s work, but most are simply indifferent, and “not actively engaged” in the work they do. These numbers made me reflect: Where do I find joy in my life? Certainly our first instincts reflected by our culture drive us to seek joy in pleasure, money, success and recognition. But deep down we know that these joys are fleeting. Real joy is precious, if not elusive, because it is not simply a feeling, but rather a delight in connecting with the One who created us and who knows what satisfies our deepest desires.
Pope Francis begins his most recent Apostolic Letter: “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” This is the promise of Easter. Christ’s Resurrection is not simply the historical belief that Christ rose from the dead, but that we, too, will share in the life he now has. Easter proclaims that we have a future, and this proclamation is the source of our joy. In fact, Jesus summarizes his preaching and mission in terms of joy, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
If the Gallup Poll results show us that our lives are often full of burden and sorrow, the promise of Easter is joy. The JOYS of Easter is the recognition that Jesus Overcomes Your Sorrow. This is the good news which we need to hear, for sorrow slips into the fabric of our lives, sometimes even unawares. Consider the many daily sources of sorrow: difficulty forgiving, fearing the future, being stuck in a rut of selfish routine, the criticism of judgment and resentment, or the disappointment of failed hopes. Our life can be awash in silent and significant sorrows.
Christ’s Resurrection pierces the depths of these sorrows. It offers us the new life of Christ alive in our hearts. It is the invitation of a second chance at a fresh start. This does not mean that our lives are suddenly free from worry and fear. The JOYS of Easter encourage us to discover the wonder and blessings of the God who even in this moment loves you into existence.
I invite you this Easter season to renew your relationship with the Risen Lord. Be mindful of his presence, open your heart to his inspiration, and share the joys of his blessings with others. We all know well that the impressive crowds that pack our Easter Masses dwindle in the coming Sundays. If you’re among that Easter crowd, that’s ok. But know that you are welcome every Sunday. In fact, I guarantee that if you begin coming to Mass on a regular basis, you’ll begin to experience life in a more vibrant and spiritual way. When you embrace and begin to live your faith, you will know the joy of the Lord in your life. Too often, our faith is simply an idea and thus the joys of life are thin and meager. Though Easter begins with a blast of rejoicing, it will quickly fade to silence unless Christ’s joy fills our hearts. Living our faith awakens us to the joy of life.
Today we rejoice in Christ’s victory. Today we hear the glad refrain, “Christ is Risen.” And we respond, “Truly, He is Risen.” May His Resurrection be your joy. On behalf of the Dominicans brothers and staff at St Dominic’s, Happy Easter!
~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.