Overcome with the Paschal Joy Brimming from Jesus’ Heart, Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Easter Sunday
April 20, 2014
Acts 10:34.37-43, Ps 118, Col 3:1-4, Jn 20:1-9

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following is the text that guided today’s homily: 

Rejoicing in the New Day of Easter

“This is the day the Lord has made,” Christians sing all over the world today. “Let us rejoice and be glad” is our reaction. While God gives us every day of our life and for which we should never ceased to thank him, today is the most special day in which the Lord who created the world in the beginning remakes it. “O God, who wonderfully created human nature and still more wonderfully redeemed it,” we prayed last night after hearing the Creation account in the Easter Vigil. The recreated world is even more beautiful than the created one. The Lord has made us for this day, to experience the recreation, the new life Easter brings. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus said, “Behold I make all things new!” Today Jesus not only renews all of creation through his overcoming of sin and the death and disordered introduced into the world by sin, but wants to make us new, too.

St. Paul describes in today’s second reading how we enter into that dramatic transformation: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” The new and improved human life Jesus wishes to give us involves new goals, new aspirations. It involves a death to the old Adam in us and a resurrection to the New. It involves lifting up our hearts and our lives to the Lord. If we live this day as God wants to help us to live it, if we permit the Lord to remake us this day in his image and likeness, then we will experience the joy and gladness of this most sacred day.

The Easter Ode to Joy

Joy is meant to be our fundamental disposition on this day. Catholic Churches throughout the world exploded with joy last night in the Easter Proclamation describing the joy of Jesus’ resurrection. “Rejoice, let Mother Church rejoice, arrayed with the lighting of [Jesus’ risen] glory, let this holy building shake with joy, filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.” In the hymns we sing, we burst with that building-shaking gladness. In The Strife is Over, we sing, “O Let us swell the joyful strain.” In Christ the Lord is Risen Today, we tell each other, “Raise your joys and triumphs high.” In the great Marian antiphon sung each of the 50 days of the Easter season, the Regina Caeli, we chant, “Be Joyful, Mary, Heavenly Queen!” The entire season is an Ode to Joy given to God at the gift he gives us today. The Eucharistic Preface of the Easter Mass most effectively summarizes this Easter attitude: “Overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise” as with all the angels and heavenly powers we praise and thank God “yet more gloriously” on this day “above all.” Jesus came into the world, as he said to us on Holy Thursday, so that “my joy may be in you and your joy be complete!” Today is the day in which he wants to give us that fullness.

The Joy of the Gospel Radiates from the Easter Mysteries

If we’re going to celebrate Easter Sunday well, if we’re truly going to live the Christian life, we must joyful and glad. This has been one of the principal messages of Pope Francis since his election 13 months ago. At the end of November, he wrote an apostolic exhortation to every Catholic of the world entitled The Joy of the Gospel. He would hope that you’ve had a chance to read it in the past five months, or if you haven’t, to do so as a response of faith to God this Easter season. The fundamental reform of the Church Christ is calling him to lead is one in which Catholics experience the true joy of the Gospel, the joy of believing and living our faith, and contagiously bring that joy to others. He said, “There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter,” who live as if they always have “just come back from a funeral.” That is not the Christian way!

Pope Francis’ thoughts in that exhortation are a powerful way for us to learn how to live Easter right. He begins his exhortation saying, “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.” The Holy Father admits that the Christian life isn’t devoid of crosses, but states that Christians find joy even in the Crosses because of our knowledge of how Good Friday leads to Easter when we unite those Crosses to the Lord. “The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross, constantly invites us to rejoice,” he declares. “Our Christian joy drinks of [Jesus’] brimming heart. He promises his disciples [before his Passion]: ‘You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy’ (Jn 16:20). He then goes on to say: ‘But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you’” (Jn 16:22). After his resurrection he fulfilled that promise, the Pope says, as St. John describes happened on Easter Sunday evening, “The disciples ‘rejoiced’ (Jn 20:20) at the sight of the risen Christ. “

The Resurrection Restores Creation

Pope Francis says that Christians need to be overcome with Paschal joy because the “heart of the Christian message will always be the same,” in humanly good times and in bad, in poverty and prosperity, in sickness and in health. That message is about “the God who revealed his immense love in the crucified and risen Christ.” The fundamental Christian proclamation, the Gospel, is: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” “When everything is said and done,” Pope Francis observes, “we are infinitely loved.” The Holy Father recognizes “the grief of people who have to endure great suffering,” but he says “slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress.” The Resurrection gives us hope. “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. … Christ, risen and glorified, is the wellspring of our hope, and he will not deprive us of the help we need.”

But the Holy Father says that if we’re going to experience this fountain of hope and joy, we need to live with Jesus in the present, we need to enter into communion with his joy and hope, we need to receive his strength even in our weakness. “Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past,” Pope Francis emphasizes. “It contains a vital power which has permeated this world. Where all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up. It is an irresistible force. Often it seems that God does not exist: all around us we see persistent injustice, evil, indifference and cruelty. But it is also true that in the midst of darkness something new always springs to life and sooner or later produces fruit. On razed land life breaks through, stubbornly yet invincibly. However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and spreads. Each day in our world beauty is born anew, it rises transformed through the storms of history. Values always tend to reappear under new guises, and human beings have arisen time after time from situations that seemed doomed. Such is the power of the resurrection. … 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.”

Woe to us if we do not share this joy!

This vital power of Jesus’ resurrection is at work not just out there in the world but also inside of each of us and this is at the root of our Christian joy, the joy of the Gospel. But it’s not enough for us to experience it individually. In his exhortation, Pope Francis calls us to share that joy. The joy flowing from Jesus’ brimming heart into ours is supposed to flow from ours into others. Just like last night during the Easter Vigil, we all lit tapers from the Paschal Candle showing how Jesus, symbolized by the Paschal Candle, lights each of us, symbolized by the tapers on fire; and just like we all spread that flame to our neighbors by lighting their tapers in turn; so Jesus wants to illumine us with his joy, the joy of the Resurrection, the joy of the Gospel and have us spread that joy to others. The way to increase our joy is precisely to do this. We all know that if we were to take a lit taper outside on a windy day, it would almost certainly be extinguished. We can’t surround it with our hands and body sufficiently to protect it from the wind. The only way to keep the flame alive is to make it grow, to join it to many lit tapers so that it becomes a huge bonfire that not even strong winds can really extinguish. It’s the same way with Christian joy. It grows by sharing, because then our own joy is increased by seeing the joy of Jesus change the life of another.

Our joy from Jesus compels us to share that joy with those we care about, those we love and even strangers for whom Jesus out of love died. Pope Francis says, “We are convinced from personal experience that it is not the same thing to have known Jesus as not to have known him, not the same thing to walk with him as to walk blindly, not the same thing to hear his word as not to know it, and not the same thing to contemplate him, to worship him, to find our peace in him, as not to. It is not the same thing to try to build the world with his Gospel as to try to do so by our own lights. We know well that with Jesus life becomes richer and that with him it is easier to find meaning in everything. This is why we evangelize!” We share the faith so that others may be happy.

Calling everyone to “come and see,” to experience Christian joy

This morning in St. Peter’s Square, to a crowd of 150,000 present for Mass, Pope Francis summarized all of these lessons and called on all Catholics to share the joy that comes from our living bond with the Risen Jesus. “The message which Christians bring to the world is this,” he said. “Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death. That is why we tell everyone: ‘Come and see!,’ [as the angel said to the women at the tomb]. In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… ‘Come and see!’ [that] Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.” We are spurred on to do all of this, he declared, with “joyful certainty in our hearts.”

Celebrating the Resurrection with Joy on Easter and “Little Easter”

Today on this Easter Sunday, on this day the Lord has made, we rejoice and are glad, and we seek together with Jesus to share that happiness with others. And the greatest way we do that is in the way Jesus taught us to do it, here at Mass, not just on Easter Sunday but on what the early saints called the “little Easter” of each Lord’s day. It’s here that we come to celebrate the special day each week the Lord gives us to rejoice in and be glad, the day on which he remakes us in his image. Today, “overcome with Paschal joy” that flows into the enthusiasm of all our hymns, our sung and recited responses, in the peace we give to each other, let us get ready to receive Jesus’ risen body and blood so that he may make us new, so that he may help us to seek the things that are above, so that he may help us “see and believe,” and inspire us to go to bring to others this Joy of the Gospel that Jesus lives, that he loves us, and that he is at our side every day  — so that they with us may experience the joy Jesus came to give us all to the full!

The readings for today’s Mass are: 

Reading 1
ACTS 10:34A, 37-43

Peter proceeded to speak and said:
“You know what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.
We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
as judge of the living and the dead.
To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Responsorial Psalm
PS 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

R/ (24) This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R/ Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R/ This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R/ Alleluia.
“The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.”
R/ This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R/ Alleluia.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
R/ This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R/ Alleluia.

Reading 2
COL 3:1-4

Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

Sequence – Victimæ Paschali Laudes

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia.

Gospel
JN 20:1-9

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.