We have many days left to celebrate — let us not allow them to go to waste.
Throughout my life, I've witnessed tremendous testimonies of joy.
I knew a young man who spent his entire life confined to a wheelchair. He served as a clean disc jockey for Catholic weddings. He arranged the music for our wedding and he did it all with joy. Even though he would likely never experience the happiness of married life, he was willing to rejoice for others who would.
My dad, a Calvinist Protestant who served for many years as an elder in his church, has never been enlightened about the Catholic doctrines of redemptive suffering, plenary indulgences or gaining merit toward one's heavenly goal by enduring trials for Christ. Yet, he bears his terminal cancer with such a courageous spirit that it puts many of us Catholics to shame.
I have a brother whose once-devout Christian wife left him and his seven children, in a tragically sudden and wounding fashion, to run off with an abusive, divorced man. He bears her leaving by clinging to God's mercy, trying to not speak ill of her, and begging others to pray for her eternal salvation.
I have an “adopted grandma” Nancy who is a consecrated virgin and a Lay Missionary of Charity. She converted to Catholicism from Judaism as a young woman, to the threatening disapproval of her family. In fact, both of her mother and her sister locked her in a closet for weeks, and even tried to kill her for her decision to become Catholic. On their deathbeds, Nancy was able to help bring them both into full communion with the Catholic Church. She carried the cross of her grueling family struggles and her lonely, long life of service to others with radiant joy.
And I am humbled to admit that, regardless of the anxious and melancholic moods I tend to splatter around my “domestic church” at times, I have been blessed with a 4-year-old daughter who rings all around me, like a little bell of happiness. I also have a 10-year-old daughter who is tough and loving, and knows how to sail through the storms of life with a hearty spirit (far better than her mother does), as well as a husband that knows what it means to surrender to God, no matter what life may throw at us. As our infant conjoined twin girls were dying unexpectedly in 2013, he baptized them, explaining later that he felt their souls ascend to Heaven shortly after they died. The months following, he simply clung to the hope of that blessed baptism, and showed extraordinary strength and trust in God’s beautiful plan for our family. Throughout the years following, the Sacred Scripture verse from Job 1:21 has resounded in our hearts: “Naked I came forth from my mother's womb, and naked I shall go back there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Joy is intensely mystical and wildly ineffable. It is one of God's most numinous mysteries and grandest masterpieces. Its presence distinguishes the lost soul from the prayerful soul; the fighting soldier from the sullen one; the childlike heart from the Pharisaical one. Divine as it is, it is not something that just “comes” to the unwilling soul. It is something, as my former religious superior once told me, that you have to passionately seek with all your heart. You have to ‘own’ it. You have to seek it, chase it, catch it and keep it for ransom, never letting it go. As St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Joy is prayer, joy is Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” Once you have done this, you will fulfill an essential aspect of your destiny, for, as St. John Paul II once reminded us, “God made us for joy. God is joy and the joy of living reflects the original joy that God felt in creating us.”
As our friend in faith, the towering prophet Habakkuk, told us of old, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
This being said, let us ride on wings of the joy of Our Lord throughout the rest of this Easter Season. We have many days left to celebrate — let us not allow them to go to waste.
Paschal Hymn from the 1962 Roman Breviary
The morn had spread her crimson rays,
When rang the skies with shouts of praise;
Earth joined the joyful hymn to swell,
That brought despair to vanquished hell.
He comes victorious from the grave,
The Lord omnipotent to save,
And brings with him to light of day
The saints who long imprisoned lay.
Vain is the cavern’s three-fold ward —
The stone, the seal, the armed guard;
O death, no more thine arm we fear,
The Victor’s tomb is now thy bier.
Let hymns of joy to grief succeed,
We know that Christ is risen indeed;
We hear his white-robed angel’s voice,
And in our risen Lord rejoice.
With Christ we died, with Christ we rose,
When at the font his name we chose;
Oh, let not sin our robes defile,
And turn to grief the paschal smile.
To God the Father let us sing,
To God the Son, our risen King,
And equally let us adore
The Spirit, God forevermore.
V. Christ, in thy resurrection, alleluia.
R. Let heaven and earth rejoice, alleluia.