Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Joy!

“I’m too young to die.”

That is the thought that ran through Margaret’s head when she found out that, at age 35, she had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She thought of her three young daughters, all under the age of nine, who needed their Mommy. And she thought of her husband and all the plans they had made for their life together. It would be a long, hard fight, but it was one she knew she had to make.

The years of treatment that followed were not easy. She endured surgeries and chemotherapy. Just when they thought they had gotten all the cancer cells, another tumor would appear. There were many times that she lost hope and wondered if it was all worth it. For strength, she turned to her faith, praying the rosary, reading the Bible and offering her sufferings up to God. Visits from her pastor and get well cards from her daughters’ religious education classes reminded her that she had not been forgotten by her parish.

Finally, after three years, she was cancer free. As her hair grew back in and her strength returned, she felt like a new woman. She returned to her parish for Mass for the first time since her treatments began. It was Easter Sunday. She could not contain her emotions as she sang, “Christ our Lord is risen today! Alleluia!”. More than any other time in her life, she felt that Jesus was real, that He was really alive, that He had really risen from the dead. Though she had always believed it, this time she knew it and felt it with all her heart. Jesus was really alive and living in her. She realized that she had been given a second chance at living fully the life that God had intended for her.

Margaret now shares her story with anyone who will listen. She wants others to know how much they are loved by God and that we can overcome any obstacle through the power of the Risen Lord. She is convinced that God saved her life for a reason, and she is determined to take every opportunity to spread the good news of His unfailing love and the new life that is ours through Jesus’ resurrection.

Sisters and brothers, Jesus is really alive. He is in our midst as we gather to celebrate His resurrection. He is not just a figure from the past, but a  person who is living in you and in me through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is a person we can encounter, whom we can know and with whom we can have a relationship of love.

Life can be difficult. We often feel alone or abandoned.  But through it all we have a God who gave His only Son to die for us. Even more wonderfully, He raised Him from the dead to give us the promise of everlasting life. Whatever challenges we may face in life, God is greater than them all. And, if we trust in Him, He will see us through them all. When we have finally persevered through it all, we can experience Jesus truly alive in us as Margaret did after she endured her cancer treatments and as Mary Magdalene and the apostles did after experiencing the horror of Jesus’ death.

When we have good news, we cannot keep it to ourselves. We have to tell others so that they can share our joy. That is what Mary Magdalene did when she found the empty tomb. She ran off to share it with Peter and John so that they could see for themselves. That is what Peter does in today’s first reading. He tells all the people gathered in Jerusalem the good news that Jesus is alive and that by believing in Him they can have the forgiveness of their sins. And that is what we must do. We who experience a Jesus who is really alive - alive in His word, alive in the Sacraments and alive in His Church - must share the good news with others so that they can see for themselves and share our joy.

In the past, we have not emphasized enough the need to evangelize our communities. Often, we have thought that it was a task only for our priests, deacons and sisters. But we are living in a different world. People do not come to church as frequently as they did in the past. Many are losing any connection to a parish or even to a faith tradition. More than ever, we need to bring the faith out into the world, beyond the walls and boundaries of our parish church. We need to bring it out into our families, our schools and our places of work. It is something that each one of us,  no matter what our abilities, is called by God to do.

We would not walk past someone who was starving without giving him something to eat. Yet we live, work and socialize with people who are starving for hope and hungry to know that there is a meaning to their lives. They are counting on us to share our faith with them, to tell them the good news that Jesus is alive and active in our midst.

It can sound scary. But it is really as simple as sharing with others how God has worked in our lives. We do not have to preach to others or act as if we have it all figured out. It is just a matter of letting others know what Jesus has done for us and that He can do it for them too.

We know that Jesus is alive. We have heard Him speak to us in the Scriptures proclaimed to us every Sunday. We have seen Him in the eyes of our brothers and sisters in faith. And we have received Him in the Holy Eucharist which is His risen Body and Blood. That experience of Jesus truly alive makes our hearts well up with a joy that we cannot contain, a joy that must be shared with others until all the world knows and believes that Jesus Christ is Lord!

(image by Marisol Sousa)

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