They will know you by your joy!

Finding joy, something we all search and long for, yet joy is a Christian’s natural birth right. As Lent comes to an end with the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, we cannot help but feel the warmth of the light that has lifted us out of the darkness. Like the seedlings and plants waiting for those first warming rays of spring, we too bask in the glow that comes from the Risen Christ. 

There is something about Easter that we cannot deny, it transforms us, changing our perception of the world; giving us new hope, turning our doubts and fears into faith. So many of us have experienced the death of a loved one and fully understand the pain of grief; for me and so many others, the promise of the Resurrection helps ease the burden of our loss, giving us comfort in knowing that our loved ones are safe in the arms of Jesus, until we meet again. 

Jesus’ death and Resurrection takes us from sin into grace, from death into eternal life. His words to the criminal who was crucified along with Him, provided comfort to that man as it does to us so many years later: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43). How can we not be transformed by the sheer reality of what Jesus did and said on our behalf? How can we not have joy, when joy is what was given to us that first Easter morning? 

It is our joy that identifies us as Christians — Jesus Himself told us, “People will know that you are My disciples by your love” (Jn 13:35). Which could very easily be paraphrased to read: “They will know you by your joy,” because this joy permeates every inch of us, filling us to our very core. Why is this joy so evident in us? Because, we bear witness to the truth of Jesus’ rising from the dead, greatly impacting how we go through life and our very attitudes. There is a strong conviction in the knowledge that Jesus sacrificed His life so that we should gain eternal life. His love was that great and that self-sacrificing. 

It is because of this great love, that we are transformed like the butterfly, which becomes free from her trappings, dancing from flower to flower in celebration of her rebirth. We too, with the help of the promises of Easter, are able to shed those things that separate us from God’s mercy and love. This is why we are known as Easter people, not only because of one Sunday dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ, but because we live the Easter promises every day of our lives. The hope and joy that was freely given to us upon the cross on Good Friday, when Jesus stretched out His arms opening wide the gates of Heaven so that we may all one day enter into His Father’s house, is hard to ignore or hide. Even as He was nailed to the cross, Jesus implored God saying, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). He continued to intercede on our behalf right up until His last breath. Not many of us would be that willing to forgive another’s grave transgressions against us, but yet Jesus in His infinite mercy and love, did just that. 

The challenge, therefore, for us Christians is to carry this joy into the world. To forgive others who disappoint and hurt us, to go beyond our comfort zone to help others who find themselves in darkness, giving them hope. It is in reaching beyond all that we know, to share all the joy that we have with others. Simple acts of love and kindness; being present to those in need; entering into the discomfort of others in order to comfort them; and daring ourselves to find Christ in everyone we encounter, in doing so, we allow them a glimpse of the Risen Christ. We become instruments of God’s mercy and love; helping others encounter Jesus in our deeds and actions and in the way we live our lives. 

Joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22). This gift, along with the other gifts of the Spirit, provides us with the tools necessary to help us enjoy the true freedom that is offered to us by Jesus’ death and Resurrection. So this Easter season remember to “rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice” (Ph 4:4). For Christ was dead, but now is Risen.

May the joy of Easter always surround us, our loved ones, and all those we hold dear. May we know the true joy of being a disciple of Christ, and may we be known as Christians, not by our words but by our actions and how we choose to live our lives. 

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Christ is Risen! Hallelujah! 

Happy Easter! 

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva lives in Fall River and is a parishioner of St. Michael’s Parish, and she is the Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. She is married with three children and two grandchildren.

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