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Dominica Resurrectionis

Latin Mass 2020  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  8:10
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LESSON: Easter joy cannot be dimmed

Easter is the feast of joy, par excellence. Even Christmas, while certainly joyful, is more a feast of hope, as we look forward to what the Christ Child will accomplish. Easter joy, is the joy of knowing what Christ has accomplished. His Sacrifice offered on the wood of the Cross has been accepted. The bonds of sin and death have been broken. We have been redeemed and the gates of heaven have been at long last opened once again to fallen humanity.
Of course, this year is different. We are cut off from family and friends, there will be no big gatherings feasting on the paschal lamb, or paschal ham if you prefer. We cannot be in church to celebrate Our Lord’s Resurrection, and receive Him in Holy Communion. Instead of looking out on the radiant faces of a congregation filled with paschal joy, I’m looking at a camera. But should any of that reduce our joy? No, that would be to mistake joy for happiness.
Happiness is a response to happenstance, contentment, good luck, prosperity, or good fortune. Happiness is also a reaction to pleasure; one can be happy when eating ice cream, reading a good book, receiving a promotion at work, or experiencing anything pleasurable, like celebrating with our families. That means that a rich or powerful man might be happy, but not necessarily joyful. Having sufficient material goods, as philosophers and moral theologians from Aristotle onward have pointed out, is not enough to satisfy the infinite longings of the human heart.
Joy, in contrast, is defined as an intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness or the expression of such feelings, and it comes from, as the scriptures tell us:
The response of the soul to a great and wonderful discovery, such as truth or communion with God.
A personal fullness or sense of completeness in one’s entire life.
A deep peace which comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within a person, and lasts despite hardship.
The fruit of faith, hope, and love.
The deeper meaning of joy is clear; these situations are not related to prosperity, good luck, or the events of the day, but true goodness that brings lasting peace.
Pope Benedict, in his book of Meditations through the Year says this:

All this makes clear what Easter does mean: God has acted. History does not go on aimlessly. Justice, love, truth—these are realities, genuine reality. God loves us; he comes to meet us. The more we go along his path and live in his way, the less we need to fear justice and truth, the more our hearts will be full of Easter joy. Easter is not only a story to be told: it is a signpost on life’s way. It is not an account of a miracle that happened a very long time ago: it is the breakthrough that has determined the meaning of all history. If we grasp this, we too, today, can utter the Easter greeting with undiminished joy: Christ is risen; yes, he is risen indeed!

ILLUSTRATION: St. Lawrence’s joy in the midst of suffering

The lives of the saints are filled with illustrations of joy that cannot be overcome by even the worst sufferings, perhaps the most well known and best illustration is the martyrdom of St. Lawrence.
As deacon in Rome, Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the Church, and the distribution of alms to the poor. When Lawrence knew he would be arrested like the pope, he sought out the poor, widows, and orphans of Rome and gave them all the money he had on hand, selling even the sacred vessels of the altar to increase the sum.
When the prefect of Rome heard of this, he imagined that the Christians must have considerable treasure. He sent for Lawrence and said, “You Christians say we are cruel to you, but that is not what I have in mind. I am told that your priests offer in gold, that the sacred blood is received in silver cups, that you have golden candlesticks at your evening services. Now, your doctrine says you must render to Caesar what is his. Bring these treasures—the emperor needs them to maintain his forces. God does not cause money to be counted: He brought none of it into the world with him—only words. Give me the money, therefore, and be rich in words.”
Lawrence replied that the Church was indeed rich. “I will show you a valuable part. But give me time to set everything in order and make an inventory.” After three days he gathered a great number of blind, lame, maimed, leprous, orphaned, and widowed persons and put them in rows. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, “These are the treasure of the Church.”
The prefect was so angry he told Lawrence that he would indeed have his wish to die—but it would be by inches. He had a great gridiron prepared with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence’s body placed on it. After the martyr had suffered the pain for a long time, he made his famous cheerful remark, “It is well done. Turn me over!”
Even in the midst of cruel torments and painful sufferings, St. Lawrence was still filled with a joy that his executioners could not take away. That is the joy that we should have as we celebrate the Resurrection of Our Saviour and Lord.

APPLICATION: Joy is our duty

For Catholics, joy in the midst of adversity is our obligation and our duty. Remember that we are not alone. Our faith in Christ and our devotion that bind us to Him will see us through the tough times and help us share a joy which will not evaporate in the face of tough challenges. Be encouraged by our Lord’s words, “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you shall have distress. But have confidence. I have overcome the world.”
However, if we find our joy waning in the midst of the current situation, there are four practical steps we can take to maintain that paschal joy:
Surrender to Christ. Every day recommit to putting Him first in all areas of your life.
Give up your burdens to Christ in daily prayer. We can’t do it alone and we need His help and his grace.
Be thankful for our blessings. We can gripe about problems or we can focus on all of the incredible blessings in our lives and express our gratitude to Our Lord in prayer.
Start with the end in mind. Are my actions each day serving Him? We hope to hear Our Lord say at the end of our lives on earth, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Our goal is Heaven and we must live lives that lead us there.
As we celebrate this Easter Day, the day of Our Lord’s glorious resurrection, even though we may be separated from family and friends, even though we may not be able to rejoice at Mass, our joy should not be dimmed because God has acted, the sacrifice has been accomplished, the bonds of sin and death have been broken. We have been redeemed and the gates of heaven have been at long last opened once again to fallen humanity.
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