April 9, 2023 Essay: The Joy of Easter
Cowering at the abyss of darkness and awash in the whirlwind of conflicting emotions, Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James, awoke from their restless sleep as the eerily unfamiliar fingers of dawn began to pierce the ebony stillness of early morning. The laments of the preceding day were undoubtedly a dirge ringing in their ears, finding cadence with their heartbeats as they walked along a path that they believed would lead them to the brutalized body of someone they loved. Although weighted down by sorrow, they continued forward despite what they feared, that despair would assault them when they arrived at their destination. And when they reached the tomb—oh, when they reached the tomb—there was a blinding flash of light that radiated hope at that moment and for all time. Their long and wearisome journey of faith, sparked by a vigilant ember of longing, would be set ablaze by what they discovered at an empty tomb. Joy became their lifeblood as they raced back to release the painful shackles of bondage from those who hid in darkness and fear.
Hearts pounding with excitement, faces glowing with the brilliant light of that morning, and memories flooding their souls, these three women ran like the wind to tell their companions of what their eyes had seen. The thrill of that signature moment in history could not be contained. The joy of Easter had to be shared and proclaimed in their every action and word. Shouting, singing, and dancing with merriment, they were the first to herald the news that Jesus was true to his word; he had risen from the dead.
That joy of Easter was a wellspring of hope and courage in the lives of those first disciples. What they had seen with their own eyes or through the eyes of others changed their lives forever. They fearlessly navigated the turbulent waters that ceaselessly overwhelmed the world they knew. They boldly ran into the marketplace to be messengers of hope to those who lived on the margins, whether of faith, or poverty, or indifference. Their joy filled the vacuum created by despair that, for all too many, made the world seem dark, uncaring, and forgotten by God.
What is our experience of the joy of Easter? It can be all too ephemeral if we allow it to be. We will have attended Mass and celebrated the day with families and friends gathered to enjoy the bonds of love. The real reason for the need to celebrate is often buried under the weight of the mundane. Such things as the treats the Easter Bunny brings, the traditional meals to be served, and how many jellybeans to eat overshadow the real meaning of Easter, resulting in the dissipation of joy and a return to a routine of insouciance.
There is a lesson to be learned from the first disciples of Jesus Christ. Their joy was contagious and was the foundation of the early church. We need to put on our running shoes on Easter Day and run from the church into our marketplaces, whether we identify them in our homes, our city, or that private place within us that we think is impenetrable to light. The world we know is the same one experienced by the first disciples. Our words and our actions are also capable of emulating theirs if we allow the joy of Easter to penetrate our hearts. Only then will we authentically live what we believe, that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.
There are people in our communities who live on the margins of society, who shutter in fear and face each day with dread. It is the joy of Easter that will restore their hope if we follow the example of Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James, if we run to where they are to be found and tell them what our eyes have seen and our hearts believe. The joy of Easter must be shared. It is the fuel that shatters the darkness and ignites the flame of hope.
May your celebration of Easter be filled with joy, and may you be tireless in your marathon of faith!
Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J., Pastor