As Catholics, we’re usually pretty good at sacrificing. That is to say, we’ve usually had some practice with it, and we’re used to talking about it as a part of our faith life. Most of us were focused on it daily for the past 6 weeks!
Now, in these next 7 weeks, let us focus on REJOICING! Ever notice that the Easter Season is longer than Lent? The Lord knows that after walking with Him through the desert, we need to feast for longer than we fasted! Why is it that each night in Lent we ask ourselves if we were faithful to our Lenten strivings, yet in Easter we do not daily rejoice with the Lord in His victory and thank Him?
We see these themes of joy and victory throughout the liturgy of the Easter Season – just look at the mass readings from yesterday! From Psalm 118,
“The joyful shout of victory in the tents of the just… This is the day the LORD has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.”
Then from the Gospel according to John,
“When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.”
And we have seen the Lord! We have seen our beloved Pascal Lamb, risen in victory over all our short comings, all our trials, all that persecutes us and all that separates us. Let us rejoice!
Yet to rejoice is not to force a smile, not to practice positive psychology, and not to attempt to artificially prolong the sentiment of happiness. True rejoicing comes as it did for the disciples, as a natural response to an encounter with God’s mercy and love incarnate in Christ.
We rejoice when we realize that God has done for us what we could never do with out Him. When we sit and give attention to our own inner reality, we can see with honest empathy our failings, our smallness, our limited love – the great chasm between our current state and the saint within. Instead of despairing, we must pray to see the truth that Christ freely chose to bridge that great chasm with radical love. And when we sit before that magnanimous divine love, and allow ourselves to meditate upon it – what relief floods our soul!
It is like when we step into the sun after cold, stiff hours inside artificial air conditioning, and our eyes squint and our skin pricks and at first we withdraw a bit before such strong warmth – but then, slowly, our hunched shoulders relax, our eyes adjust and open, and the warmth seeps in right down to our bones.
That is how joy arises in the soul who encounters such divine mercy and love. We could
never merit such love, and will never have to, because it is given as a gift. And thus our soul can rejoice – “for the Lord has done great things for me, and holy is His name!” (Luke 1: 46-55)
Have you not felt it – that relief, freedom and joy – when a loved one or other kind soul reaches out and helps you do that which in your weakened state, you could never have done alone? Your burden is shared and thus lessened, and gratitude wells up within you before such an act of love. These small acts reflect the infinite grace our Lord showers upon us through the victory of His Resurrection! Just as we consciously strove to give our Lenten offerings each day, let us now give ourselves the daily space and silence to contemplate His victory, and allow His joy to well up within us.
I’d like to leave with you one last thought, a phrase to help you be attentive to all the little signs of God’s love, hidden in plain sight, that are cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving. In this time of Easter celebration, let us be the alma de la fiesta! “Alma” means soul in Spanish, and in Spanish you don’t say “life of the party,” you say “alma de la fiesta” – the soul of the party!! If we as Catholics have a reputation for being pretty good at the whole Lenten sacrifice thing, let us now make ourselves a name by being joyful souls, the alma de la fiesta, of the Easter celebration!
Then we, too, may be a sign of Christ’s victory, a soul magnified through no merit of our own, spending ourselves as Christ to bring mercy and joy to others.