The Hope and Joy of Easter

St. Paul wrote to the Colossians (3:1): “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above….”  In other words, live in the light of Easter.  Live with the hope and joy of Easter.  You have been baptized and given a new life.  Live with the hope and joy that this new life in Christ brings.

Our temptation is to live in darkness and despair.  There is so much “Good Friday” in the world today.  So many tragic deaths. So much abandonment on crosses made, in Pope Francis’ words, by “the globalization of indifference.” 

In his Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis wrote about the serious temptation to “defeatism which turns us into disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses’ (#85).  People who give in to this temptation “think that nothing will change” (#275).  But because of Christ’s resurrection, we have hope. 

Pope Francis writes: “If we think that things are not going to change, we need to recall that Jesus Christ has triumphed over sin and death and is now almighty. Jesus Christ truly lives” (#275).  This means that “Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world” (#276).  Because of the resurrection, we have hope and confidence. 

But holding fast to hope requires work.  We have to strengthen the hope that Christ’s resurrection gives, to believe that it “is not an event of the past,” but a force at work in our lives and in the world.  “Faith means believing in God, believing that he truly loves us, that he is alive, that he is mysteriously capable of intervening, that he does not abandon us and that he brings good out of evil by his power and his infinite creativity” (#278). 

That is where our faith is challenged: to believe that evil is not the final word and that God can bring “good out of evil.”  Yet this is what we have just celebrated.  God took the worst evil possible—the crucifixion of the Son—and brought out of it the greatest good—our salvation from sin and death.  This is the reason for our hope and joy. 

Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York has identified four threats to joy. 

The first is self-pity which puts “me” first, at the center.  Joy comes when God is first, others are second, and I am third.  Self-pity inverts that order and leads to unhappiness.

Secondly, joy is threatened by worry which fosters a negative attitude toward the future, feeds pessimism, and again places “me” at the center.

The third threat to joy is the belief that my happiness depends on something outside of myself.  I believe that certain things or people or situations will make me happy whereas, in the words of Jesuit Fr. John Powell’s book, “Happiness is an Inside Job.”  But what about God?  Shouldn’t God be the source of my joy and isn’t God transcendent?  Yes, but through baptism God is also within.  As baptized temples of the Holy Spirit, we find God within the secret chamber of our heart.

Finally, the fourth threat to joy, according to Cardinal Dolan, is complaining which not only saps our joy but spreads negativity to others who often in turn reinforce our own negative attitude.  The antidote?  Gratitude.  Seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty and being grateful for what fills the glass. 

In our case, we are filled with the light, hope, and joy of Christ’s resurrection.  Having spent forty days of Lenten preparation for the celebration of the Easter Triduum, we now have fifty days in which to savor its hope and joy. 

But we must do more than savor the hope and joy of Easter.  We must live it in our daily lives.  We were made new through baptismal waters.  The world was made new by Christ’s resurrection.  As Pope Francis wrote in “The Joy of the Gospel”: “Christ’s resurrection everywhere calls forth seeds of that new world; even if they are cut back, they grow again, for the resurrection is already secretly woven into the fabric of this history, for Jesus did not rise in vain.  May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!” (#278).

Our lives are a journey to the Kingdom of Heaven where we will live forever.  We will live body and soul sharing in the glory of Jesus Christ, our Risen Savior.  May we not, as Pope Francis said, “remain on the sidelines,” but may we march forward with hope and joy.