The Easter season is a season of joy. During this season we read from the Acts of the Apostles, where we discover a nascent Christian Church that is fully alive – bathed in the light of the risen Christ and on fire with the power of the Holy Spirit. In Luke’s portrayal of the early Church, the disciples of Jesus are doing the very same things that Christ did during his earthly ministry – they are healing, boldly proclaiming the Gospel, serving the poor and marginalized, forgiving sins, and suffering persecution death. They have heeded and taken inspiration from the truth that Jesus Christ is who he says he is – God did what Jesus said he would do – namely God raised Jesus to new life on the 3rd day! The tomb is empty and Christians rejoice in the truth that Jesus Christ is risen – he is risen indeed! This truth continues to be a source of joy and hope for Christians today.
In the prefaces to the Eucharist prayer during the season of Easter I have been somewhat amused by the phrase, “therefore, overcome with paschal joy….” What does it look like to be overcome with paschal joy? It probably looks like how the saints lived their lives. I recently said to Catholics at Mass that if someone asks them how they are doing during the Easter season they should respond – “I am overcome with paschal joy!” If others then respond – why is that – they can follow up and say, “because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead – he is risen indeed.” As Christians, we know the end of the story – life triumphs over death, light over darkness, truth over doubt, and goodness over evil. The end of the story has been written through the Resurrection of Christ and this reality gives Christians a resolute and abiding sense of joy and hope amidst the challenges, privations, and injustices of our present world. The truth of the risen Christ gives Christians a horizon borne of faith and a freedom to imagine how the world can be.
One of the most challenging types of Catholic I encounter from time to time is the “Catholic curmudgeon.” There is little joy and little hope here – I believe one can rightly ask whether folks who are curmudgeonly have encountered the risen Christ and the love of God in their own lives? Perhaps there are wounds that Christ seeks to heal. By faith, we know that the love and grace of God are transformative – it transforms our hearts, our lives, our attitudes, and certainly instills in Christians an abiding sense of joy and hope. Archbishop Harry Flynn used to say that joy is the abiding sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit. I agree; because joy and hope are supernatural gifts given to the Christian by God, they are signs of a lively and authentic faith. God is driving the bus, and no matter what comes, we know the victory has been won in Christ! This truth results in joy and hope amidst the challenges we face.
In these challenging times in our Twin Cities community, nation, and world, the need for Christians who live their lives marked by great joy has never been more urgent. Christians of joy can be a balm and a needed leaven in a world best by polarization, limited horizons, and doubt. Paschal joy, borne of great faith, is transformative and attractive. This type of joy is not saccharine, naïve, or fleeting, but robust and resolute, founded upon God’s divine life and grace.
The Basilica of Saint Mary has a great history and future, but we also face challenges and headwinds in terms of the ongoing effects of the pandemic, decreased numbers of those attending Mass, attendant financial realities, and the complexities of a change of pastoral leadership. The one constant in our life of faith is Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today. I have said for years that the only indispensable person in a parish is Jesus Christ – it’s not the pastor, the parish administrator or any other parish leader. Christ is our foundation and our future. The truth of Christ truly risen and the great joy that comes from this is an abiding message of our faith and a sure foundation for the coming years as we seek build up and go out as a community of faith.
Given this truth, I hope the next time someone asks you how you’re doing, you can respond with authenticity: “I am overcome with paschal joy!”