EASTER JOY

By *Fr. Peter Schineller, SJ

'This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad."
(Response of the Responsorial Psalm for Easter Sunday)

In the Christian Year, we have two solemn feasts that especially emphasize joy, namely Christmas and Easter. We also have the penitential season of Lent and the hope-filled season of Advent. But Christmas Day and Easter Sunday are the peaks of joy.

If we reflect on it, there is a different feel or tone to the joy and peace of Christmas and Easter. Christmas is the joy of new life, the birth of the infant Jesus, with the song of the angels, the visits of the shepherds and the three kings. Yet suffering is not far away: "there was no room at the inn." The Holy Family must flee quickly to Egypt to escape from King Herod.

In contrast to and deeper than the joy of Christmas is the joy of Easter. This is the joy that comes only after the suffering and death of Good Friday - the joy of resurrection, rising to new life from the darkness of the grave. The women and the apostles realize that the Word and promise of Jesus holds true. He had to suffer and die, be put to death, but on the third day he would rise.

We now share that joy in our troubled world. We see much suffering and death at the hand of terrorists, from natural and human created tragedies, and from sickness. But in light of Easter faith, hope and joy, we believe that suffering and death do not have the final word! The deeper reality is the joy and peace of Easter.

For we Christians believe in the third day! After the suffering and death on Good Friday. after the silence and waiting of Holy Saturday, there is the Third Day, Easter Sunday. Jonah was delivered from the belly of the whale on the third day (Jonah 2: 1-11); St. Paul received his sight on the third day (Acts 9:9); Jesus was found in the temple on the third day Luke 2:46); and Jesus accompanied and brought new life and joy to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on the third day (Luke 24:21) - so we rise with Jesus on Easter, the third day.

How should we celebrate Easter? The Jesuit poet Hopkins expresses it this way; "Let him Easter in us, be a dayspring for the dimness in us." Let the joy and new life of Easter fill our hearts, minds, and lives so that we become an Easter People. Surely difficulties and sufferings and death remain, but deeper still is the joy and peace of Easter. St. Paul describes Easter joy in this way: "As we have shared much in the suffering of Christ, so through Christ do we share abundantly in his consolation" (2 Cor. 1:5).

 

*Fr. Peter Schineller, SJ, is a former Regional Superior of Nigeria-Ghana Region, which is now the North-West Africa Province and is currently working at the Jesuit Centre in Amman, Jordan. 

 

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