So great was their joy

So great was their joy

Third Sunday of Easter. Fr Robert Eccles preaches on the joy of the resurrection and the wounds of the risen Christ.

When we became believers – we could say also for some of us, when we were invited to follow in the footsteps of St Dominic – it was not in order to follow a rule of life, however holy. It was to taste this joy. It was to be set free from the darkness that overshadows human living, set free to share a joy, a joy that no one can take from us.

If we are believers but cannot imagine this Paschal joy, we have something to learn. If we are followers of Blessed Dominic 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.

A person who is unhappy, on the surface or secretly, can’t tell anyone about the resurrection.

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.

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.

The only thing that prevents us living in joy is selfishness, egoism. Of course I’m not saying this to you, I’m saying it to myself! I’m sure not one of us is actually a selfish individual.

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.

The one who lives by the truth comes out into the light.

An apostolic life, the life to which we were all called by our baptism and confirmation, the life of which the way of St Dominic is just one flowering, 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

says Timothy Radcliffe,

asks of us that we truthfully seek to know what are our resources for the common mission. 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 leavetaking, 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.

Readings: Acts 3:13-15,17-19 | 1 John 2:1-5 | Luke 24:35-48

fr. Bob Eccles is a member of the Priory of St Michael the Archangel, our Noviciate house in Cambridge