More than just a day, the Church gives us a seven-week Easter season to celebrate. Yet sometimes our everyday lives feel so heavy that celebration is not a part of them. Critical illness in the family, loss of a job, disappointment in a relationship and the burdens of everyday life can make it a challenge to feel particularly joyful – even in the Easter season.
But the joy we are being invited into this season is beyond what we see in our everyday lives. It's true that Jesus says “Come to me and bring me your burdens” but we usually can’t believe it. Maybe we don’t want to believe it. If I really allow Jesus to come into my heart the way he wants to, will he ask me to change my life in ways that are too hard? How do I share the chaos of my life with Jesus? If I keep him at arm’s length, my life might be difficult, but at least my problems are familiar. What would it cost me to let go and change my life?
We know our own faults and failings so well. Too well. We begin to believe that Jesus loves the way we love – with all of our human limits. How could Jesus love us and accept us the way we are right now? Maybe when we fix a few things about our lives, love our spouse a little better, stop being so critical of family members, stop drinking, stop nagging, love a little more… when we are perfect, then Jesus will love us.
If we can overcome our fears, the real power of letting Jesus into our hearts is how free our hearts will become. Suddenly, we are not afraid, not burdened and simply ready to serve with Jesus.
Jesus loves us - right now. At this moment, Jesus holds each one of us in his warm and loving gaze and loves us so freely at a depth that our human minds can’t take in. Whether we comprehend this or not, Jesus loves us endlessly and waits for us with his arms open, ready to hold and support us.
As we receive his embrace and feel the peace and joy of Easter wash over us, we can look over his shoulder, and see beyond to those in need who now wait for us. That’s when we realize that the real joy in our lives is putting aside our own faults, challenges and difficulties for a while and entering into the lives of others.
Pope Francis said at Easter, we leave ourselves behind and encounter others by “being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast.”
We are being missioned as Easter People. We find peace in Jesus’ love for us and now we share it with others. We find ourselves standing side by side with Jesus, looking together at those we are being sent to love.
That is where the real joy of Easter waits for us.
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