You and I Need Easter Joy All Year Long
Easter Sunday has come and gone, and we’re quickly moving through the Octave of Easter – the eight days during which we follow our Lord’s appearances immediately after his Resurrection.
This is one of my favorite times of the liturgical year.
In these post-Resurrection days, the daily Mass readings tell story after story of the disciples’ encounters with the Risen Christ.
I love it.
What I love most is the joy of it all, particularly after the hard, mournful days of Lent when the readings reflected the many predictions of Jesus about his impending death and then the agonizingly sorrowful Holy Week readings about his Passion and Crucifixion.
The Easter Octave readings are stories of joyous reunions, miraculous revelations, fulfillment of God’s promises, and hope.
I can picture Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” meeting Jesus on the road, falling to the ground and embracing his feet. Why? Out of reverence, of course, but primarily out of relief and joy.
I can imagine Mary Magdalene’s face when she looked into Jesus’ eyes, recognizing him not as one of the gardeners, but as her beloved “Rabouni.” And can you just imagine the joy bursting forth from her tender heart?
What I wouldn’t give to have been one of the disciples walking along the road to Emmaus! What an amazing experience to meet this most intriguing and knowledgeable Man and have the gift of listening at length to his grace-filled wisdom. Then, mind you, to share a meal with him which ends up to be the Breaking of the Bread – the Eucharist!
How about the time when the disciples were gathered in the Upper Room and a “ghost” walks in – through the closed door – and greets them? To squelch their shock, Jesus invites them to touch him so that they can be assured it’s really him. Then, the best part of that scene. He does something so simple and normal.
“While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.” (L 24:36-43)
Oh, and the glorious morning that our Lord cooked breakfast for the disciples while they were out fishing. I can’t think of this scene without breaking into tears. For me, it’s akin to the washing of the feet during the Last Supper. Jesus not only cares for their souls; he cares for their bodies as well. And he’s so humble that he has no problem with perfect servitude. I saw the rock on which Jesus served that breakfast to the disciples.
I bawled like a baby as I sat venerating it.
I chuckle at the scene when Jesus scolds the disciples for their “unbelief and hardness of heart” when they disbelieved the others who had seen him after he had been raised. Mark uses the word “rebuke.” As for me, I picture Jesus with a gentle glint in his eyes. He knew his disciples. He knew what they were capable of – and not capable of. He loved them. I prefer to think of his rebuking as a firm yet loving chiding.
Last but not least in the Easter Octave readings is the story of Thomas, aka, “Doubting Thomas.” The last of the disciples to see the Risen Christ face to face, he refused to believe he’d risen unless he could put his fingers into our Lord’s wounds. No chiding or rebuking this time. Jesus simply tells him, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Point made.
It doesn’t stop there. After the Octave of Easter, we’re lead through the adventures of the disciples during the First Readings, taken from the Acts of the Apostles. In fact, there’s a subtle Easter theme threaded through the liturgies all the way to the Feast of the Ascension.
And then it’s over, right?
Perhaps the liturgies change, but our hearts – more specifically our joy – should not.
We absolutely must become a people of the Resurrection. As Christians, we are called to live Easter joy all year long. That’s especially critical in our present times, when we’re surrounded by violence, fear, godlessness, and yes, outright evil.
Easter joy is what will keep us going.
When the headlines are discouraging, politics are depressing, and our personal lives are falling apart, it’s Easter joy that will see us through. It’s remembering that Christ died for our sins and was raised miraculously three days later. It’s reminiscing about all those marvelous Easter Octave stories and allowing them to lift us up, out of our doldrums and right into the arms of our tender, caring, serve-breakfast-by-the-seashore Lord Jesus. It’s believing in his Resurrection and knowing that it proves that Christ can – and will – conquer all. He is more powerful than any other being, any other force that ever was or ever will be.
It’s living Easter joy, not just on Easter Sunday, not just during the Octave, but all year long.