On Easter Sunday 2017 my family and I gathered at the family home to celebrate Easter by partaking in our regular Easter feast (our family does food well). My grandparents and many of my dad’s graduate students joined us for the feast. I enjoyed getting to know some of the graduate students better during dinner and a post-dinner game of horseshoes; however, my favorite time was when everyone had departed but my brothers, their significant others, my parents, and I.
My brother Travis and my dad began to play whiffle-ball in the grass next to our house. Slowly we all migrated from our post-dinner food-induced laziness, and began to take turns batting and fielding. It was nothing we hadn’t done as a family on numerous occasions before, but I experienced such great joy in the interactions we shared as a family that day. I felt known and loved, and I knew and loved the ones I was with. There was such great happiness that I thought to myself this is a taste of heaven. This was one of those moments of close to pure joy. Its joy was only bittersweetened by the fact that we all knew that it couldn’t last forever here in this place.
Pope Francis recently wrote in the opening line of his post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, “The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” This means that when we experience joy within our families or within families that we cause the Church to rejoice. The joy of a Christian community (especially a family) united in love is a powerful experience in which is found a foretaste of the heavenly reality. The family is also a sacrament of the communion of the Trinity. In the family, the love of two begets a third. Thus, “the couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon, capable of revealing God the Creator and Savior. For this reason, fruitful love becomes a symbol of God’s inner life”
The Bible is replete with references to the goodness and the sacramental value of the family who reveals God to the world. Moreover, in the story of Abraham, we see that the Lord brings Abraham into communion with him in a familial manner. Salvation comes through the family of Joseph and Mary in Nazareth. Reference is made to many familial relationships in the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul. In fact, faith is naturally at home in the family and is spread through family ties. In the midst of the brokenness in the world today, joyful families are important evangelizers.
The joy I experienced in my family has a sign value for the world. In experiencing this joy, I truly experienced a foretaste of heaven since the family is a communion of persons bonded by love. This is precisely what constitutes heaven. Heaven is not so much a place as much as a communion of persons. In heaven, we will have the fulfillment of the Trinitarian life to which God calls each person. We will know God as he is and love him perfectly. Celebrating feast of Easter by playing whiffle ball, my family imaged the life of heaven because we mutually knew and loved each other.
I was surprised by the pure joy which we experienced as a family in a mundane simple activity, but I shouldn’t have been; Heaven seeps into the everyday when love is given and received. The joy of being with my family was tempered by the longing for the experience to continue forever, which is a sign of the longing for heaven. The longing for joy to endure does not make me turn away from enjoying the good things of life today but rather, it helps me to appreciate the greater meaning and significance of the rejoicing. The joy we have now is good precisely because it serves as a sign of the greatest joy possible.
Easter is the time when we as Catholics celebrate the mystery of heaven. The season of Easter helps us remember our heavenly homeland and rejoice that we already receive glimpses of it each time we experience the joy of loving or being loved. Let us rejoice in the love of Christ. Alleluia! The Lord is Risen! This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! We will follow the lamb wherever he goes.
 Amoris Laetitia 11