Visible Joy

There is an ancient saying in the Eastern Church, “If you want to know if Jesus is really Risen, look around you at the faces at the Easter Vigil.” Year after year, I witness the truth of this simple statement. Every year, I look around as the darkness is driven back by the light of Christ, and I see faces radiating with awe at the awesome power of hope in the Resurrection.

As beautiful as it is, this retelling of our story of God’s might and merciful love for us, the vigil lasts only one night. The Church, guided in wisdom by the Holy Spirit, which Jesus has breathed upon his disciples in the Upper Room, proclaims selections from Acts in its liturgies, during the season of Easter, because it is vital that we remember to take that joy of the Resurrected Christ onward into our lives. Our joy in Christ must last long after the vigil candles are extinguished, and the last notes of the organ have faded away. But does it?

When you encounter others in your life, do they see your joy radiating out of you? Do they sense the warmth that comes from knowing how beloved you are? Do you speak about your faith with the same enthusiasm you might talk about a movie you’ve just seen and loved? When you speak of being Catholic, is the conversation more like a list of obligations and restrictions such as, “I have to go to Mass on Sunday,” or “I can’t have that, because I had to give it up for Lent,” or maybe even with a sigh, “I have to take my kids to St. Peter’s for class?” Or does it sound more like a sharing of the gifts and joys you’ve received because of your relationship with Christ. For example, “Let’s meet later, because I want to go to Mass first. I always feel better able to face the week once I’ve been.”

Whenever I read this reading from John in which Thomas, returning to the Upper Room, has a tough time believing the other disciples, I wonder what he saw when he walked in. Were his friends breathless with excitement? Did they seem to be overwhelmed with delight? Were they laughing, smiling, weeping tears of joy? Filled with they Holy Spirit, were they ready to get out there and get to work? Could he see the presence of the Risen One in their faces? In other words, were they credible witnesses to what they had seen and experienced?

It’s worth noting that, despite declaring that he’d need to put his hand into Jesus’ wounds to believe, all it takes is the presence of Jesus. It may not be Jesus whom Thomas doubts but his friends about whom he has misgivings. Thomas’ declaration, “My Lord and my God!” is nothing less than an exclamation of faith.

Just as Thomas declares his belief in the Risen Savior, we profess our own in the observance of Divine Mercy Sunday by saying, “Jesus, I trust in You.” It’s fitting that this story of Thomas’ faith follows just as Jesus recruits his disciples, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to spread forgiveness and mercy.

The Sunday of Divine Mercy, this year on April 8, reminds us that God’s mercy is greater than our sin. Out of love for us – all of us – God wants us to completely trust in Him and to accept that, through Christ, forgiveness is poured out over us and importantly, through us to others. What would it mean for the world if our joy in Christ were so undeniable, that it spilled into everything we do and into every conversation we have? What would it mean if we ourselves were aware of the incredible gift that has been bestowed upon us?

This Easter, as we follow along with the disciples in Acts, let’s take the time to ponder what Thomas might encounter in us, were it left to us to announce the Good News of the Risen Christ to him. Would he have found us to be a credible witness? Would he have found us eager to set out in His name? Would he see at a glance the anointing of the Holy Spirit we have received? Do our faces reveal that He is, indeed Risen?

Lisa Amos
Pastoral Associate

 

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