Third Sunday of Easter
50 Days of Joy?
Some years ago, I saw an article with a question as its title – “50 days of Joy?” It talked about Easter and our experience of it. The writer stated the view that ”A whole season of joy seemed excessive.” The author confessed that he was more comfortable, and more at home really with the days of Lent with its own richness – a time of penance, ashes, the desert, wandering– than with the joy of the resurrection. Yet that is exactly what we proclaim in the Easter prefaces: “we praise you with greater joy than ever” during this time as Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. Others wonder in a similar vein: “Have we lost our ability to be joyful?” We seem to have an easier time with Lent – than with the Spirit of Easter.
Yet, we continue to reflect on the Resurrection of Jesus – THE miracle of our FAITH, the cornerstone of our faith, THE REASON for all our HOPE. As St Paul wrote, “if Christ is not raised from the dead, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.”
Perhaps the dilemma is that the truth of the Resurrection is overwhelming. It might be so overwhelming that we kind of shrink away from its reality. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is the heart of Easter. Bishop Robert Barron makes a strong point that the Resurrection is a fact as testified to in the Acts of the Apostles – like today: “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.”
If we, who live now 2,000 years after that wonderful fact, sometimes struggle, it’s also true that those who knew Jesus, who lived with him and heard him speak, also struggled at first to believe what had happened. In a number of the Gospel accounts thus far this season, we see them struggle in their own disbelief, and how they came to recognize Jesus – as he stood in their midst and said, “peace be with you.” Or how they recognized him when he sat down to break bread with them. As he reassures them, “do not be afraid, it is I.” The travelers perhaps best express this on the road to Emmaus: “Were not our hearts burning within us?”
Just as he challenged Thomas and the others “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe,“ so he speaks to us. We are among those who do not see him in the way that the Apostles did. But see him we do – if we look and if we have eyes open to see him. And this experience strengthens our faith, our conviction, our belief in Him. We see Jesus now in the Church, in the sacraments, in our coming together for Eucharist – to hear God’s Word and receive his Body and Blood. These are our passageways to encounter Jesus the Risen One.
The process by which we recognize the Risen Jesus is similar to the way his apostles did. We recognize him when we hear his voice – as we hear the Good News when we gather to celebrate the liturgy, when we come to a better understanding of what that Good News means. For that, we look to each other to share the story of the Good News – the good news in our lives. We look to our Resurrection moments – those moments of eye-opening, faith-enriching grace that come to us more often than we might think. And that is something that can bring us genuine joy, and encouragement no matter what else may be happening around us.
Reflection by Fr. Peter Ullrich, OSB