What is a joyful Catholic? What is a joyful Christian? Let the answer not be: “a rarity”.
A joyful Christian is not someone who dwells in fear, mistrust, and misgivings. Rather, a joyful Christian is someone who lives in hope and trust and generosity. “By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:3.)We are not to go about in gloom, covered always in ashes and sackcloth, bemoaning and wailing the waywardness that is man, groveling in a flood of tears for our sins. Jesus died for our sins. He took on the responsibility of our waywardness and let himself be crucified for our sakes. And then… the glorious “and then”… Jesus rose from the dead. Because of the Resurrection, the true Christian dwells in joy. We are an Easter people.
People often say to me that I am an inspiration. This is not an uncommon thing for a person in a wheelchair to hear. But, not all of us will hear it. Simply being disabled is not very inspiring, after all. But – I am a naturally joyful person. God created me with a sense of humor, an easy smile, and a deep love for the beautiful in all things. When I became a Christian, therefore, it was easy for me to be a joyful Christian – because, even as an atheist (when God spoke to me in secret, a secret kept even from me) God has always spoken to me in the language of joy. So, when people see me all crumpled up in my wheelchair – and genuinely smiling – they are inspired. Loss and limitations, disease and suffering, deformity and pain, fragile body and pending death – none of these things can kill the joy in the human heart, the joy placed there by God. To know this is, indeed, divine inspiration. I did not create it nor do I produce it – it is a gift from God, it is the gift of God, flowing through me.
Today, on this Divine Mercy Sunday, two great popes are being canonized by the Catholic Church as saints. And I am struck by what these two men have in common. Yes, yes, they were both popes. But, they were also, perhaps most importantly, joyful Christians. John XXIII was known for his smiles, jokes and friendliness, his enthusiasm for people. And John Paul II, more widely known by people in our time, was renowned for his love of life and his joy in all things beautiful – especially his joy in humanity. Oh, these men knew suffering, deep suffering. And these men spent many hours on their knees, these men cried and wept, these men could be angered by injustice – but nothing squelched the joy. The joy that is Christ, Christ Risen, Christ Glorified. Alleluia.
Jesus, while he walked and talked upon the earth, told his followers over and over again, “Be not afraid.” If we truly have faith, that is, if we truly trust in God, then what do we have to fear? If we have hope, believing in the resurrection of Christ, who is our living hope, then we not only know mercy, but we are revolutionized by mercy, living it day in and day out. And if we have love, true love… then we know true joy, deep, eternal joy.
And we are ever and always an Easter people.
Let us go to those who are wounded, and to those who inflict wounds, and let us pour out the healing mercy of God with all of our faith, with all of our hope, and with all of our love. With the knowing peace that is joy! Let us live the mercy of God, thus living the fullness of humanity, the fullness of life.
© 2014 Christina Chase