Michæl McFarland Campbell

Always telling the story

Good news travels fast: let’s spread the news of joy

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Some thoughts for the First Sunday of Easter. Readings: Acts 10:34, 37–43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22–23 ℟ v.24; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9

℣ Christ is risen, alleluia!
℟ The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!

Joy is the best response

We were created for joy. We never hear someone say,

You know, this whole joy thing is not for me. I wish I had a little more misery in my life.

We are created for joy, but we come to realize that it’s not something we can just buy at the local supermarket. Thinking about the most joyful moments of our lives, is it not true that they were a surprise?

Today’s Gospel gives us an idea of the surprise of discovering the empty tomb. St Mary Magdalene had been there at the foot of the Cross. She had see Jesus die. Crucifixion was not a joke. Being such a horrible way to die, even the Romans eventually outlawed it. So it was, that St Mary Magdalene was not expecting an empty tomb. She knew that Jesus had really died.

So, when she sees the empty tomb, she does not know what to make of it. So she runs and tells St Peter and St John. Both of them run to the tomb. St John beats St Peter to the tomb, he looks in, and then waits for St Peter, the first among the Apostles. St Peter enters the tomb, and then St John follows him in.

What they saw surprised them. We should really say that what they did not see surprised them. The body of Jesus was gone. The burial cloth was there, but the body was gone. The Greek actually says that the burial clothing was lying there in its folds. It was as if the body of Jesus had just evaporated and left the clothes lying there as though there were a body. But a body there was not.

Imagine the surprise. What has happened here? We are told in the Gospel that St John saw and believed. He believed that Jesus had risen from the dead! The surprise must have overwhelmed him. But as he began to believe, he was filled with joy.

Joy is the best response to Easter. Who could have ever imagined that death could be conquered? That is the meaning of Easter. Our deaths are not the end. Just as Jesus rose from the dead, we will rise from the dead. Body and soul, we will live forever.

Suffering does not have the last word. Death does not have the last word. No. The Love of God, given to us in Jesus Christ, the Love of God has the last word. This is why the response to today’s Psalm is

This day was made by the Lord, we rejoice and are glad.

On Easter Day, we also are surprised by the presence of the Risen Jesus. We, too, are filled with joy.

When we realize the gift of Easter, joy is the best response.

The Saint of joy

The St Philip Neri, the founder of the Congregation of the Oratory, was known as the Saint of Joy. His antics were legendary. On one occasion four Polish nobles came to visit him. He welcomed them and started to read a book of jokes to them. Every so often he would stop laughing to remark,

You see what wonderful books I have, and what important matters I have read to me!

They went away grumbling about this charlatan who pretended to be a saint. He would also go around Rome with large white shoes on his feet, or dressed in a marten skin cloak, or have his beard shaved off only on one side, or get a haircut in church while Mass was being sung. When he was being criticized by others for his supposed ignorance, he made sure to mispronounce some Latin words during the Mass while they were present. He once said that

a cheerful and glad spirit reaches holiness much more quickly than a melancholy spirit.

St Philip Neri, was a man who had been surprised by the incredible Love of Christ. He realized that joy was the best response.

This day was made by the Lord, we rejoice and are glad.

Tell your story

The Easter story is the most wonderful story ever told. But it is not simply a story told for fun, it is a story that also happens to be true.

Think about how fast good news spreads.

If I really believe that Jesus died for me and for each person, do I not want to tell others?

If I really believe that Jesus rose from the dead at Easter, do I not want to tell others?

If I really believe that Jesus is alive, and wants to fill our lives with healing, freedom, and joy, do I not want to tell others?

Our faith, Christianity, spread because Christians told their story. In our own time, people will come to find joy in Christ if we tell our own story about finding that same joy.

Today, as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we know that He wants to be both our strength and our joy. After we receive communion, in church or at home, let us take a minute and ask Him, “What is my story?”

Surely every one of us will remember one moment when we realized that our life was different because I know Jesus Christ. Can we share that moment with someone else?

Someone else in this world is waiting to hear that story. Someone else is waiting to experience the joy of Easter.

Regina cæli, ora pro nobis.

As it is Easter, let us join in praise by singing the Regina Cæli:

Joy to thee, O Queen of heaven, alleluia;
He whom thou wast meet to bear, alleluia;
As he promised hath arisen, alleluia!
Pour for us to God thy prayer, alleluia!

℣ Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia!
℟ For the Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!

O God, who, by the Resurrection of thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, hast brought joy to the world: grant we beseech thee, that, through his Mother the Virgin Mary, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life; through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

April 16th, 2022 at 8:12 pm

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