Boy… these pandemic days are crazy… as people, we long for community; as church we hunger for the sacraments; our nation and the world struggles for unity. These are trying and troubling times. How do we respond? How do we cry out to God with Joy?
Our first reading takes place soon after Pentecost. The first Christians are facing trying and troubling times. Stephen has just been killed for preaching the Good News. The first persecution has begun in Jerusalem.
Many followers of Jesus, fearing the persecution, leave Jerusalem … isolating as it were, throughout the countryside.
Philip, one of those whom the Apostles appointed to serve at table, ended up in the City of Samaria. He is filled with the Spirit, filled with the Joy of the Resurection, filled Easter Joy. And so he preaches the Good News and converts so many that “There was great JOY in that city.”
With the impetus of the Spirit, in trying times, we are called to respond with Easter Joy!!! And that Joy can be contagious.
One of the messages of today’s scripture is that, especially during this Pandemic, we all need to be filled with Easter Joy….
… for me the JOY of Easter outweighs anything and everything.
It is not easy. This Pandemic is a devilish thing … it seems particularly virulent for the weak – and it can be so sad… It has been that for me.
Back on April 2nd, it seems a lifetime ago… my brother died due to the Coronavirus. Michael was gentle and humble; one of the kindest people you might meet. A friend of mine said he was “A good guy” … But I must admit that I took it really hard …Michael lived alone … and so he died alone and that bothered me. My sister Paula tried to soften my sorrow … “He wasn’t alone … God was with him” she said. The skeptic in me said … “humph” …
Michael had been in AA for years, for decades … and it came out that a lot of people relied on him. He was not rich, economically – he was poor. He enjoyed being a crossing guard in New Rochelle. I have learned that Michael, though poor, was extremely generous. He loved others, and they loved him. We learned that Michael, ever patient, would always lend a caring ear… he would sit with folks who were sick, hold their hands. In a quiet way, he was a presence of God for others.
No one knows how Michael got the virus … but I have come to believe that Paula was right… Michael was not alone when he passed to the Lord.
In the Gospel Acclamation, we heard Jesus promise… “Whoever loves me [and one another]… my Father will love him and we will come to him”. That is our certain Hope, our Easter Hope. And from that Hope comes Easter Joy! Surely God was with Michael … surely we have Easter Joy!
One might ask: Is this kind of Hope real? Is it real Joy?
Today’s excerpt from the letter of Peter helps us with that. “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope”. Be a witness… tell them why, when faced with trying times, you can be full of Joy. We had a witness, last week, right here in this place.
Ozzie told us about how he responded to his nurses when they asked how he could have such optimism, such Joy, that much real Hope, when faced with cancer. He told them, and us, the reason for his hope, He has Easter Joy. Jesus is in him!!
During trying and troubling times (and at all times) we must remember what we heard Jesus say in today’s Gospel, “I will not leave you orphans… (in the days of Easter) you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you…
This is what Easter Joy is, right?
This is what makes us … happy …
This is what feeds us with HOPE …
This is what strengthens our Faith …
This is the source of our JOY …
It’s Easter… Let all the earth cry out to God with JOY!!!
Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen – Alleluia!!! Alleluia!!!