THURSDAY IN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER
READ: LUKE 24:35-48
The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way, and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. He said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."
When the disciples realized that it really was Jesus in their midst, our reading describes them as being "incredulous for joy" and "amazed". When we encounter the Risen Christ, joy should erupt in our hearts. This is different from happiness. Happiness is often dependent on circumstances--whether we are healthy or not, whether we got enough sleep or not, whether we are inconvenienced or not. But joy is so much more. Joy is not dependent on circumstance or situation, but is the "personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved" (Pope Francis). This joy is unshakeable because it's not rooted in the things of this world, but in Jesus, the one who has conquered this world.
Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, writes that "There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter." And in the rest of this document, he encourages the faithful to not let this be so. Why? Because this world needs the joy of the Risen Christ. Because there are people in our homes, in our extended families, in our workplaces, in our schools, in our community, and even in our parishes that are thirsting for the joy that only Jesus can give.
St. Teresa of Calcutta once said that "Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love." In this quote, we find our mission and the secret to how we can allow Jesus to produce joy in us. When we allow ourselves to fall in love with Jesus, to place our whole trust in him, the result is a heart burning with love. And the result of that heart burning with love is a joy that is evident--to the people closest to us, to the people we encounter. But this joy that is the "personal certainty that...we are infinitely loved" can only come from being with the One who infinitely loves us--in our daily personal prayer, in the Sacraments, in His mercy. The depth of our joy is in direct proportion to the depth of our receptivity to grace, the depth of our relationship of love with the Risen Jesus.
The people in your life, however close or far away from Jesus they are, need the joy of the Risen Christ. We all do. Let us each set aside time today to specifically ask the Holy Spirit to produce in us this fruit of joy. "May the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from [Christians] who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from [disciples] whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ" (Pope Francis).
Do you have the personal certainty that you are infinitely loved? If not, what stops you from believing in Jesus' personal and infinite love for you?
Are you a Christian whose life often seems like Lent without Easter?
Who are the people in your life that you think need the joy of the Risen Christ?
How can you pray for them today and pray for yourself that the fruit of peace might be produced in you?
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth! O LORD, our Lord, how glorious is your name over all the earth! What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him? You have made him little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet. All sheep and oxen, yes, and the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea, and whatever swims the paths of the seas. R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
"A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love." How will you spend more time today with Jesus, whose heart burns with love for you?
Intrigued by all the quotes from Pope Francis? We highly recommend reading his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. Here is a link to the online version: