April 12, 2013


Easter is the season of joy

“Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions, but it comes from having encountered a Person, Jesus, who is among us. … Follow Jesus! We accompany, we follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and carries us on His shoulders. This is our joy, this is the hope that we must bring to this world of ours.”
— Pope Francis, Homily for Palm Sunday

This is the season of Easter joy. Pope Francis tells us that the source of our joy is Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Ours is not a joy that comes from possessions or pleasure or power. Our joy comes from having a personal encounter with God’s only begotten Son, a man like us in all things but sin, who suffered death and rose again for our sake!

Joy is not something we experience every day. Joy is not the same thing as happiness or contentment or even enjoyment. We can enjoy a nice dinner with friends without being joyful. Joy is something different. It’s more profound.

Parents experience joy when a son or daughter returns from Iraq or Afghanistan unharmed. We can experience joy at the wedding or ordination of a close friend. Joy can surprise us—when we discover something precious that we thought was lost forever. Or joy can deepen gradually over many years and finally express itself at a golden jubilee celebration.

Joy comes when many years of suffering and adversity are overcome; when an extended battle with cancer appears to be won; when a forgiving father welcomes home a prodigal son; when a political prisoner is finally released from captivity; and when love and fidelity are victorious over evil. This is Easter joy—the Lord’s triumph over sin and death, the forgiveness of our sins, and the opening up of the gates of heaven to all God’s children.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus’ friends experienced many mixed emotions at the time of his Passion, death and resurrection. They were afraid, bitterly disappointed, hopeless, full of doubt and uncertainty. And then came the joy of the Resurrection.

For some, like the women who went to the tomb on Easter morning, the experience of joy was immediate—even if it was mixed with confusion about what really happened.

For others, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, joy came more slowly—after they experienced the Lord’s presence in the breaking of the bread and in his teaching.

For Peter and most of the disciples, the joy of Easter was intermittent. It came and went with Jesus’ appearances in the upper room and in Galilee. It was not until they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that the joy of Christ’s resurrection became deeply rooted in their hearts.

What is this Easter joy that is so special and so closely tied to the Lord’s Passion, death and resurrection? How do we experience it today—more than 2,000 years later? What difference does—or should—this season of joy make in the way we feel and in the way we live as disciples of Jesus Christ?

The joy of Easter springs from our gratitude to God for his saving grace, for his forgiveness of our sins, and for his presence in our lives. “Shout for joy!” the Scriptures tell us. “Rejoice and be glad!” the angels sing. “Alleluia! Praise God!” the saints tell us by their words and example.

Easter joy should give us the confidence we need to overcome the negative voices that are inside us and around us all the time.

Our faith should bring us lasting joy. As the Holy Father teaches, “we accompany, we follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joy, this is the hope that we must bring to this world of ours.”

Things are not awful. God has reached out to us and loved us. We are not doomed to a disastrous fate; Christ died for us and set us free. We are not alone; we are the gathering of God’s people, the Church, united in Christ. We do not need to be afraid; he is with us always. Our sins have not damned us; the grace of Christ has saved us.

Happy Easter! May this season of grace bring us lasting joy. May we share this joy generously with others during this Easter time and always!

—Daniel Conway

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