March 31, 2015 // Uncategorized

The joy of being Christian

The artist Titian (1490-1576) offers this rendition of the Resurrection which dates between
1542 and 1544.

As we celebrate Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord, we sing again with joy “Alleluia.” God has given joy to the world through the Resurrection of His Son. And so, at Mass on Easter Sunday, we sing in the Responsorial Psalm: This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad (Psalm 118, v. 24). We can say with Saint Paul: Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15: 54-55).

Last Thursday, I flew to Philadelphia to celebrate the Funeral Mass of a dear friend, a religious sister who taught me at Lebanon Catholic High School. Her name was Sister Joan Melley, a Sister of Saint Joseph. We have stayed in touch through the years. When I was 15 years old, she was one of the few people in whom I confided that I was discerning the call to the priesthood. She was a joyful and deeply spiritual woman, very popular with her students because of her warmth and love. I was grateful to be able to celebrate her funeral. I related in the funeral homily how she helped me to overcome the fear of public speaking when I had to give speeches as a student council leader in high school. More importantly, her love for Christ and her joy in following Him was contagious! She was a very positive influence in my life and in my discernment of the priesthood.

Last week, I thought about how Sister Joan was a witness to the words of Pope Francis: The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Our Holy Father is inviting all of us to spread this joy. He says: Let us feel the joy of being Christian! We believe in the Risen One who conquered evil and death. Let us have the courage to “come out of ourselves” to take this joy and this light to all the places of our life!

At Easter, it is good to reflect on our call to bring the joy of our faith to others. This is what attracts others to Christ and to the Church. To have this joy in our hearts, we must allow ourselves to be illuminated by Christ’s resurrection, to be filled with the hope of eternal life, and to know the One who has risen from the dead. He makes Himself known to us in so many ways: in Sacred Scripture, in the Eucharist and the other sacraments, and in the lives of those who love us. And He makes Himself known to us in the silence of our prayer.

Our faith is meaningless without the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Our faith is founded on His death and resurrection. Through faith and Baptism, we are able to experience the power of His resurrection. And so when we have problems and worries, when we experience sadness or grief, we are not overwhelmed. The love of Christ sustains us. The Lord Jesus is alive and with us, always giving us hope. We only need to invite Him into our hearts and He gives us strength. This is the joy of being Christian — the Lord is always with us with His mercy and love. As Pope Francis says: Those who accept His offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ, joy is constantly born anew.

I extend to all of you, my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, a blessed and happy Easter. I pray that the Risen Lord blesses you with joy and hope. I also pray that as missionary disciples of the Risen Jesus, you will spread the joy of Easter and the joy of the Gospel to all.

May our Blessed Mother, whose deep sorrow on Good Friday was turned into great joy on Easter Sunday, pray for us. In the Easter season, we pray the following Marian antiphon called the Regina Coeli:

Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia.

The Son whom you merited to bear, alleluia.

Has risen as He said, alleluia.

Pray for us to God, alleluia.

Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia!

For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

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