Your Easter looked different this year. You were unable to go to Mass, unable to travel to see loved ones. My dear sister, please know how deeply sorry I am that you couldn’t celebrate the way you had pictured. But be assured that even though your celebration was unique, the realities of the Faith we share do not alter based on circumstances. We are an Easter people, and to be an Easter people means to participate and share in the fruits of the victory Christ! To share in his fruits is a pure gift, and we get to participate in these fruits threefold: in faith, in joy and in life.
The first gift we receive from Christ in his resurrection is faith. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, faith is the virtue that moves the will to believe in the truths of God and all he has revealed to us (No. 1814). In the Resurrection narrative, some of Jesus’s disciples saw him in the flesh before others. Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, and upon seeing him, she believed. Jesus instructed her to tell the others that he was alive, but they doubted (cf. Mk 16:11). The disciples had no faith in what they couldn’t see for themselves.
Thomas was one of the last to see Jesus. In his stubbornness, he demands for a sign and claims, “unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20:25). Enter Jesus a week later, who tells Thomas to put his hands in his wounds, which he still carries on his resurrected body. Jesus shows incredible love and compassion for the one who doubts him the most.
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The uncertainties and sufferings we are currently facing are a test of our faith, which St. Peter says is more precious than gold and must be tested by fire (cf. 1 Pt 1:7). In times such as these, we can be guilty of being a Doubting Thomas. Through our ears we know Jesus triumphs over death, but we can disbelieve it in our hearts. But even in our doubts and in the midst of a pandemic, God has a plan for our lives. We can be assured that God will always show up and reveal himself in the midst of our unbelief.
In Matthew’s resurrection narrative, an angel appears to the women weeping at the empty tomb, and he commands them to tell the other disciples what they had seen and heard. The women “went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed” (Mt 28:8).
Let’s distinguish the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is an emotional response to external factors in our lives. For example, we feel happy when we eat our favorite dessert, get an offer from our dream job or are able to spend time with our loved ones. God desires our happiness! But whereas happiness may come and go, Christian joy is an internal spiritual disposition. The women at the tomb were surprised and scared at the angel’s message, but their spirits were joyful because they knew the good news that Christ had conquered death. Joy is the anchor in our souls that is unmoved by the most violent storms because of our belief in a faithful God.
I won’t sugar coat it: For the past few weeks, much of the news has made us feel incredibly sad. But whatever we hear in the news can never remove the joy in our soul! This joy is steadfast and a reminder that we have a God who doesn’t treat us as slaves. Instead, we are his children who share in his inheritance of the treasures of heaven. With the gift of faith, we are able to participate in this reality, echoing the words of St. Peter: “Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pt 1:8-9).
The central reason the Word of God was made flesh can be summed up in this: Jesus “came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). He doesn’t just want to fill our cups with life; he wants them to overflow. In the Resurrection, Christ conquers both bodily and spiritual death to give us new life. This new life didn’t just happen 2,000 years ago or when we first made a personal commitment to follow Jesus. As Christians, we can renew the fruits of the Resurrection daily. We are called to continual conversion, drinking from the living water of Christ as long as we thirst.
As you are entering into the mysteries of the Resurrection this Easter season, know that God wants to be present at all times in your life. Invite the Lord in your home, invite him in your Zoom conferences, invite him on your brave trip to the grocery store. He wants to share his life with you, and all you need to do is respond to his call.
Sharing in the fruits of the Resurrection is what makes us Christian. We get to partake in these sweet gifts, which are just little reminders of what awaits us in heaven. In her great wisdom, the Church gives us 50 days to celebrate this glorious mystery. Let’s make the most of it.