These are powerful words, and they sum up for us the miracle of Easter in such a way that is hard to deny; and that is, that Jesus was both man and God dwelling in the same body… and as we read further on in our lessons today, that Jesus, this person who was both God and man, was crucified, died and was buried. And on the third day, he was resurrected from the dead and is alive.
I have three short stories; the first is about the priest who was rector of my parish that sent me to seminary. I have a memory of standing with her in her kitchen, talking about church stuff. And as we continued talking, her little five foot nothing self, shook her fist and said, “Yeah I am one of those three day wonder people. Crucified, dead, buried, and bodily resurrected! I am willing to stake my life on that!” The second, is about a discussion in seminary, where the bodily resurrection was being discussed. My professor said, “If Jesus was not bodily resurrected from the dead, there’s no point to any of this. We might as well all stay home on Sunday mornings with our coffee and the Times crossword puzzle.” The third, is another seminary professor who said, “The story has to be true; no one in their right mind would make this up, because it doesn’t make logical sense.”
Beloved, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the great Easter miracle, matters. God becoming a man in Jesus matters. What it helps us to know is that God loves us and that WE matter. In the life that he lived, Jesus experienced all of the things that we experience, and when we experience joy, or sadness, or when we suffer, Jesus is there, Jesus is with us in those places when we feel most alone; and that means that God understands us in ways that we don’t even necessarily understand ourselves. That’s what it means to be in fellowship with God. This lesson tells us that we are in fellowship with God and in that fellowship our joy may be complete.
Joy is an interesting concept. We tend to view joy as the equivalence of happiness. The problem there is that happiness is often fleeting and “situation dependent”. Joy, on the other hand, is different. In an article I read this week from Renovare Institute, it says that joy conveys both “depth and feeling”. Joy is something that is cultivated and becomes, I think, a charism that we have when we are in relationship with God. As a Third Order Franciscan, joy is one of the three notes of our Order. In our daily reading principles, on day 29, joy is described like this: “…joy is a divine gift, coming from union with God in Christ. It is still there even in times of darkness and difficulty, giving cheerful courage in the face of disappointment, and an inward serenity and confidence through sickness and suffering. Those who possess it can rejoice in weakness, insults, hardships, and persecutions for Christ’s sake; for when we are weak, we are strong.” Joy then is not a denial of our pain or suffering, but rather the fruit of our relationship with Jesus that helps us to get through our pain and suffering. Joy is knowing that Jesus is alive, and if I can put it in today’s language, Jesus has our backs. Even when we are not our best selves, when we give in to sin, he loves us and forgives us, helping us to get closer to being our best selves. In Jesus, our joy is complete. May we proclaim that joy in all that we say and do.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!