April 17th, 2017: Easter Monday:
“Do not be afraid!” Jesus says to the women who have just found the tomb empty. “Go and carry the news to my brothers.” The first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were women. That is significant. In Jesus’ day the testimony of women was considered about as reliable as the testimony of a three-year-old child today. Had the gospel writers made up the story of the empty tomb, it is hardly likely that they would have cited as their primary witnesses people whose testimony had little weight with their contemporaries.
Jesus’ command to carry the good news of his resurrection to others is important for another reason. The command remains as urgent today as it was on that first Easter morning. Our wonderful Pope Francis never tires of telling us that we are a missionary Church. We “cannot passively and calmly wait in our church buildings,” he says. “Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but by attraction.” (Evangelii gaudium Nos. 14-15)
What is it about this first Latin American pope which so impresses people – and not just Catholics? Just about any priest will tell you that from the first days after his election, and continuing today, Catholics and non-Catholics alike come up to us spontaneously to express their admiration for Pope Francis. They perceive at once that he is a man of joy. And joy is contagious.
If the Church is filled with joy, it will be an evangelizing community. The Church, Pope Francis tells us, “knows how to rejoice always. It celebrates every small victory, every step forward in the work of evangelization. Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy. … The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of [the Church’s] renewed self-giving.” (op.cit. No. 24)
Are you filled with that joy? If not, start cultivating prayer of thanksgiving. If a long life has taught me anything, it is this. Grateful people are happy people – no exceptions!