Updated: Jan 9
Dear Friends in Christ:
As we continue on our journey through the weeks of the Easter Season I cannot help but reflect upon the idea of JOY. I have written about this topic in the past but I think it is one that is good to reflect on each year during this holy time. Why? Because this is the JOYFUL season of Easter.
We are not only an Easter people but we are also called to be a JOYFUL and JOYFILLED people. I often say to the young of our parish on their way out of Mass, and perhaps to a few adults as well--maybe I have even said it to you?--SMILE! When we leave Mass we should be reflecting the joy of what we just celebrated. The Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, is cause for JOY! The resurrection of Jesus is cause for JOY! So why don’t we all come out of Mass with huge smiles on our faces? Perhaps that is a question for us all to ponder.
The five Prefaces of Easter—that is, the first part of the Eucharistic Prayer leading us into the “Holy, Holy”—all contain the phrase “overcome with paschal joy.” So what is Paschal joy, anyway? Well, first of all, the word “paschal” comes from the Latin word pascha, which in turn is from the Hebrew word pesach, which we translate in English as “Passover.” For Christians, the Jewish festival of Passover has been transformed into Easter.
We as Catholic Christians celebrate the fact that Jesus passed over from death to life and so enabled us to pass over with him from an old way of life to a new and better existence, and to pass over from earth to heaven.
Now you might be thinking, “Sure, I’m joyful about Easter. But overcome with joy? Isn’t that going too far?” Well we certainly don’t look overcome with paschal joy when we are leaving Mass, but we should!
Don’t forget that we Christians have available supernatural joy, one of the fruits of the Spirit listed by Saint Paul (along with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; Galatians 5:22).
With the Holy Spirit, our surroundings may be crumbling around us or threatening our plans, and we may feel some inner anxiety, but alongside it we can feel joy. The gifts of the Holy Spirit do not diminish with our weakness. In fact, sometimes they shine more in us when we feel lowest.
So, back to the question—how can we be “overcome with joy” here on earth, especially knowing that sorrow will always be along with it, as least to some extent? One way to be overcome with joy is to praise God. In fact, at Mass the words in the Easter Prefaces about being “overcome with joy” are followed by a reference to praise: “Therefore, overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts, sing together the unending hymn of your glory, as they acclaim: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts…”
I should also point out that we can praise the Lord outside of Mass too. If we do so on a regular basis by taking our eyes off ourselves and putting them on God, we just might find ourselves getting closer to the kind of rejoicing known in heaven, and overcome with paschal joy.
Try living your life according to JOY:
J—putting Jesus first
O—putting others and their needs second
Y—putting your interests and desires last
Let’s try it! If we all try it, maybe we will see more smiles during Mass and on the way out of Church in the weeks to come! Let’s be a JOY filled people!
This weekend we as a parish family are certainly filled with joy as we celebrate the Sacrament of First Holy Communion for our young people on Saturday and this afternoon we celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation for our young adults. What a powerful weekend it is! What an opportunity for us to rejoice! What a cause for JOY!
How fitting it is that this weekend in the Gospel Jesus says to us, “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep.” Of course we know this call from Jesus can only come after we have strengthened our own relationship with Jesus. Prior to these statements Jesus did ask Peter “do you love me?” Prayer has to come first. When St. Monica asked the Bishop Ambrose what to do about her pagan son, he told her, “Before you talk to Augustine about God, make sure you talk to God about Augustine.” Great advice. Prayer first--especially before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Hear him ask, “Do you love me?” Then go forth and feed His sheep; help to draw others closer to the Lord. This is not a call only for those in the priesthood or religious life, this is a call for all of us who call ourselves Christians. We all have to do our part to feed His sheep.
This weekend we rejoice that the parents of our First Holy Communion students and our Confirmation candidates have done their part in helping their children to know Jesus and have a relationship with Him. They have fulfilled their promise which they made at the baptism of their children to train them in the practice of the Faith and to bring their child up to keep God’s commandments as Christ has taught us by loving God and neighbor. They have fed His sheep, their children. To all parents I say “thank you!” May we all see this weekend as an opportunity to reflect on how each of us can fulfill this call!
As always, remember to pray for our parish family and ask God’s blessings as we build His kingdom here. Please know that I am praying for you, and I ask for your prayers for me, that together through the intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, and united in the Eucharist, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world!