Are you happy? No, I mean it, are you really, really joy filled? We have all met folks who are genuinely happy, even when they are surrounded by the same challenges that tend to send our lives into a tail spin. Look at all the individuals who have been received into the Church this weekend after having gone through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). They will all tell you that at one point they felt dissatisfied, i.e. unhappy. But now they are elated! Why? Two Words: the Resurrection.
These now fully initiated Catholics will tell you that they realized they needed to take their faith as seriously as they were taking all the other things in life. They will tell you that they were looking for love in all the wrong places. They were too self-reliant and too full of pride. Many will share that they wanted what they saw in that genuinely happy person whom God put on their path. They eventually asked themselves “Why were these happy folks so involved in and committed to their faith? Why is Christ so real to them and not to me?” They put two and two together and began to reflect on what we celebrate today and every day. If Christ really and physically rose from the dead – a humanly impossible feat – that fact changed everything. Life was no longer about self-promotion but about living for a higher cause. For them, that higher plane manifested itself in inquiring about the Catholic faith and joining the RCIA.
The Resurrection is supernatural. No natural law or human power can raise people from the dead. Jesus Christ alone is the Resurrected One who is different than all other philosophers and religious teachers. This is the claim of traditional Christianity, be it Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. But is it a reality? Did Christ truly rise from the dead? One thing is certain. If Christ did not rise from the dead, Christianity is a farce and the atheists and skeptics are right.
The fervor and effectiveness of the twelve apostles, which allowed them to transform their world, suggested that their faith had an objective truth behind it. Indeed, if faith in Christ’s Resurrection were merely subjective or imagined, it would have been hard to sustain over time. What is important is that we Christians believe in the idea of new life and new power.
St. Paul seemed to be well aware of all this. In 1 Corinthians 15, he affirms without one moment’s hesitation that Christ has really risen from the dead. He even anticipated some of our questioning when he said, “If Christ is not raised from the dead, then our preaching is futile and your faith in vain” (15:14). Paul’s words remind us that grabbing onto our faith, studying, praying, getting involved in the parish will all lead to our true happiness.
When we are unhappy, we tend to take our eyes off the prize and on to other things. In a world ravaged by the effects of sin, it can seem that we Christians and the Church are sometime losing the battle. But Easter Resurrection calls us back to the fact that Christ is victorious over sin, the devil, and death (i.e. our unhappiness).
St. John says, that the victory is also within us because we have received the gift of faith (cf. 1 John 5:4). Then, the more we grow in love, the greater our victory will be, the more joyful we will be. There is no need to despair. Please welcome all our new Catholics who were fully initiated into the Faith this weekend. Grab some of their contagious joy.
Be happy. Christ is risen! God Bless!
P.S. Congrats to all who are now fully initiated into the Church. Thank you for saying “Yes” to Jesus and to true happiness. Thank you as well to Fr. Mark Soehner, our RCIA director, and the team for preparing our new Catholics.