“We are an Easter people, and alleluia is our song!”
Happy Easter everyone! As we make our way through this liturgical season, I wanted to take some time to reflect on joy, one of the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit.
One can hardly express what joy we should be feeling because our Lord is risen from the dead!
Despite the many difficulties of the past year, we are reminded by this feast that we as Catholics should be a people of joy. We are reminded now more than ever of just how powerful our God is, of just how much he loves us.
We are reminded that he conquered death on the cross so that we may have life and have it abundantly. So let us rejoice! “This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it” (Psalm 118:24).
Living your belief in the Resurrection means living a life in which the difficulties you face do not keep you from rejoicing in and praising the Lord. After all, “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? … No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us” (Romans 8:35,37).
Last year, when I intented to my household Tal’itha Cu’mi, I learned that one of the group’s pillars was “living the resurrected life.” While initially uncertain of what exactly this meant, I soon saw the call to this lifestyle clearly lived out and expressed in the ladies of that household.
The strong and holy women that I prayed with were simply filled with abundant joy. Even on the hardest days, they would never be seen without smiles on their faces. They were women with and for others, always striving to lift up those around them. A day never passed when I didn’t hear praises of the Lord coming from their lips. This was a level of joy that I know I didn’t have but that I realized I wanted so badly.
I’m sure many of you have heard the popular expression of St. John Paul II that “We are an Easter people, and alleluia is our song!” I was curious to look up the origin and context of this phrase, and I found this wise reflection given by the former pope after his recitation of the angelus Nov. 30, 1986:
“We do not pretend that life is all beauty. We are aware of darkness and sin, of poverty and pain. But we know Jesus has conquered sin and passed through his own pain to the glory of the Resurrection. And we live in the light of his Paschal Mystery — the mystery of his Death and Resurrection. ‘We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!’ We are not looking for a shallow joy but rather a joy that comes from faith.”
These past few months have not been the easiest for me. Even as I write this, looming in the back of my mind are the thoughts of my two theses papers and three research papers due in just a matter of weeks, and of the various personal matters I still need to work through.
But this year’s Easter festivities communicated to me loudly and clearly just how much God wants us to find peace and joy in him, just how much he wants us to allow him to reign in our lives and conquer whatever evils enslave us.
The great thing about joy, too, is that it is something you can choose to cultivate in your daily life. St. Thomas Aquinas explains that joy is not a virtue in its own right but is rather considered a fruit of the virtue of charity. Joy is caused by love — love of the individual and love of the good.
For example, we rejoice in the presence of our friends. We rejoice at watching the baptism of an infant at the Easter vigil because that infant is our sister in Christ and because she received the indescribable good of supernatural life in Christ. And we rejoice in Christ and in his resurrection because we love him and because we recognize the goodness of his perfect offering.
So, just like we can make the daily decision to love and to focus on the good, we can make the daily decision to choose joy, to live as an Easter people and to refuse to fall into despair despite whatever trials we are facing.
As the neighborhood Negative Nancy, I’m writing this article not from the viewpoint of someone who has it all figured out, but rather as someone who really needs to grow in this area and who has experienced a renewed sense of its importance.
I know I am a long way from being that person that radiates the joy of Christ to others, but what a wonderful gift it would be to be able to lead such a life!