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Thought for the week - 14 April 2024

Our faith should make us happy – I’m not suggesting that we wander around in a permanent state of delirium, grinning like a Vaudeville entertainer at an audition, but that it should bring us joy. Look at the martyrs for an extreme example, they went off to die in a resolute fashion filled with expectation at what comes next, or maybe we might think of how we felt when we first came to faith, and rather than imagining our unlikely martyrdom, we would think how we will pace ourselves in life from discovering faith to reaching its fruition in Heaven. Easter comes somewhere between those extremes when we have a foretaste of what is to come.

If we are believers but cannot imagine this Paschal joy, we have something to learn. If we are followers of the Apostles and early Disciples and Martyrs but not in joy, we have somehow got it wrong. We cannot know the companionship of the Risen Lord if our lives don’t reflect this joy, not only to ourselves and each other in our community, but to a wider world.

A person who is unhappy, on the surface or secretly, can’t tell anyone about the resurrection, Mary Magdalen may have been scared - and there will be many scared disciples today – the Disciples were scared of being sent out, knowing what they were being sent to, but the disciples were full of joy when they saw the Lord.

This is a hard saying, because today the world is more than ever full of tears. It would be a cruel joy that was won by ignoring the pain of the children of Palestine and the misery of asylum seekers abandoned in our streets. We would be like infants shielded from the troubles of the world. In the end we would not be real, even to ourselves, and fake disciples are also ineffective disciples.

The true, fierce joy of Christians in the resurrection is a joy that looks steadfastly on the wounds he has to show us and does not turn away its gaze. For if there is no joy, what have we to say to our brothers and sisters in their sufferings? How can we dare to go to them in their pain? Yet we must go to them, stand with them, in the name of the wounded Christ who is risen. Share with them, remember that they share the Body to which we belong.

The only thing that prevents us living in joy is selfishness, egoism. Yet it’s very easy to be collectively selfish. A whole community can be too full of its own ego. We can unconsciously encourage one another, we can come to live in a selfish way without realising it. And a household or a family that is living too well is really living at the expense of others. So we have to make this constant, costly attempt to live in the real world, in the one true light. The one who lives by the truth comes out into the light, as Jesus reminds us.

An apostolic life, the life to which we were all called by our baptism and confirmation, the life of the apostle that we are – for what else are we, if not apostles, we are reminded so much that ‘we are witnesses to these things’, is a life of truthfulness. Of transparency. Where we are not afraid to look together at what we do, what we give and what we take, what we earn and what we spend, how we use our resources.

The grace and truth of the Incarnate Word asks of us that we truthfully seek to know what our resources for the common mission are. This requires of us great mutual trust. But we are called to the utter gracious generosity of the Word.

This gospel passage ends on an urgent note. There is to be a leave-taking, a sending, the witnesses of ‘these things’ are going out to confront the world with this word of joy. Theirs is the constant attempt to face the realities, to see the wounds, the pain.

We are perhaps all too conscious of our own wounds, the failures to live our vocation fully, the disloyalties. But living in the real, accepting to look upon the wounds, we become companions of the risen Lord and share his joy.

So great was their joy that they could not believe it.


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