Father J.J.’s Jottings

First off: HAPPY EASTER!

I thought it may be helpful to focus on exactly what is Easter “happiness”? Last weekend the RCIA team and I celebrated a retreat with those whom we have received into the Church this weekend. It was a day filled with joy and happiness as we reflected on the journey that the Lord has taken us on and how we have come to this point. Tears were shed as well, but tears of joy.

Every year the group of adults, who hear the call of the Spirit and come into full Communion in the Church, bring very unique qualities. Each group is very different. I would like to highlight just a few aspects of this year’s group. One of the individuals (and their spouse) purchased a new home in our area. After asking for the “must haves” her clients wanted in their new residence, their realtor stated, “I have never heard that one before!” What was your new fellow parishioner’s answer? “The only thing that matters is that it has to be near St. Anastasia.” Another one of your fellow new Catholics, upon asking her boss for the day off so that she could attend the RCIA retreat, took a major risk when her boss said “no”. She said that this was too important. So, in these very precarious financial times, your new fellow parishioner quit her job to be here. You read that right. She QUIT her job so she could attend the retreat. This same individual came to me with tears in her eyes after the Passion Sunday liturgy the next day and told me that she has never been so “happy.”

Our deepest happiness is something that just creeps up on us when we’re not looking. We can look back and say, “Yes, I was happy then,” and as much as we try, we can’t reproduce it. It seems that, we can’t just generate happiness for ourselves. It comes from outside, from relationships, environment, the unexpected stimulus of beauty – from something “mysterious.” I believe that there is only one foolproof method for being happy.

In St. John’s gospel, we are told that the disciples who anxiously gathered in the locked room, were ‘filled with joy’ when they saw Jesus among them. They have been jolted out of the rut of what is usual and predictable, and joy springs on them without warning. What was it like for those first few hours after the empty tomb had been found, after Mary Magdalene had delivered her breathless message? It must have been a period of alarming uncertainty, half hope, half terror; which of us would really rejoice at the prospect of a miracle that would make us rethink most of what we had taken for granted? But into that chaos steps a figure before whose face ‘their questions fade away’ and joy arrives, irresistibly.

Today, the world seems even more dangerous and strange than what the first disciples experienced; stability and confidence in the future seems quite unimaginable; but there is nothing that can alter the sheer effect of “that presence.” He can offer authentic happiness (Easter Happiness). It doesn’t take away the reality, threat or risk of suffering; it’s just there. This is one of the hardest things to get hold of here. How can I feel ‘happy’ in a world so full of atrocity and injustice failure and depression? A place where I can be let go of my job for following Christ? You probably say, “I want the joy that made those folks want to move close to St. A’s.”

There are no answers in theory because this isn’t a matter of theory: it is a matter of faith. We initiate 21 people into the “Faith” this weekend. We have, on average, 3 new families join our parish each week. What is drawing them? How do we find the happiness that they have? Simply join the billions before you. Open up your life to Christ and follow what He tells you. A dangerous and risky thing, yes; but be assured, your joy will be complete. Again, “HAPPY EASTER!”

God bless,
Fr. J.J.