Receiving God’s Joy at the Right Time

Happy Easter, everyone!  The Resurrection of Jesus is our most important celebration and the cause for the greatest joy.  But, what if we’re not joyful tonight?  Now, some people here are always joyful and that’s why the rest of us don’t like you.  Just kidding.  You’re in the right state: You’ve been preparing for tonight and can feel Jesus’ victory!  Yet, what if something is bothering us or stealing our peace, or what if we’re only halfway towards Easter joy?

The goal today is that all of us together can arrive at Easter joy.  For those of us who aren’t doing well, God is with us, He understands our pain, and listens to our frustration.  The Gospel tonight is appropriate because the joy of the Resurrection is there but it’s like a seed—it hasn’t yet fully matured.  It begins, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus” (Mk 16:1).  This is very beautiful: These women saw Jesus die, their hearts are still broken, and yet, they still go to the tomb to anoint His body—an act of love.  So, God bless you if you’re not joyful or you’re having a hard time, and yet you’ve still come to Mass.

“And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb” (Mk 16:2).  Remember that darkness came over the whole land when Jesus died (Cf. Mk 15:33).  The fact that the sun is rising is a sign of hope.

“They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’  [This tells us that they don’t expect the Resurrection; they expect Jesus to be dead.]  When they looked up [which is always a biblical image for recognizing God’s action (Cf. Gen 15:5; 22:3; Josh 5:13; Job 35:5; Zech 5:5)], they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back” (Mk 16:3-4).  Now God’s acting: He’s removing the problem that the women couldn’t handle.

“As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe… and they were alarmed.  But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has been raised…  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see himjust as he told you” (Mk 16:5-7).  There are subtle signs of good news here: the ‘young man’ is actually an angel (2 Mac 3:26,33; Tob 5:4-5; Acts 1:10; 10:30); ‘white robe’ is a heavenly garment; he tells them, ‘Do not be alarmed…  [Jesus] has been raised… you will see him.’  However, not understanding, they leave the tomb in fear and don’t share the good news.

This is the human condition: It took the disciples days and weeks to comprehend fully Jesus’ Resurrection, and so it takes us time to receive Jesus’ joy.  God is patient with us.  And, when the time is right, our joy will be complete!

Last December, we were blessed to sponsor 12 of our young adults to go to CCO’s annual Rise Up conference in Ottawa, and two of them encountered Jesus’ love in a new, profound way.  Here’s a short video about their experience.

Ian didn’t mention it, but, during that conference, he chose to make Jesus the centre of his life.  He and Caitlyn have known Jesus their whole lives, but it’s only now that they were able to ‘look up’ and see what God has done for them—this is part of God’s timing.  He respects our freedom and offers us His joy when we’re ready.

Jesus is always faithful to His promises.  That’s why the angel said, ‘there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So, what does Jesus promise us?  Here’s my Top Ten List of Jesus’ promises:  1) Forgiveness (1 Jn 1:9); 2) Hope (Jn 3:17); 3) Fullness of life (Jn 10:10); 4) Joy (Jn 15:11); 5) Peace (Jn 14:27); 6) Acceptance (Jn 6:37 NAB); 7) Plan for our lives (Jer 29:11); 8) Needs taken care of (Mt 7:11); 9) Love (Jn 15:9); 10) Eternal Life (Jn 3:16).  But does He promise an easy life, job security, financial security, or quick improvements?  No.

Here’s an example of how God takes care of us, and how we need to live by faith in Jesus’ promises.  This coming August, and you’ll see this in our magazine that we hand out later, we’re going to exhaust our parish’s operational budget.  Our Parish Centre fund is untouchable, but we won’t have enough money to maintain our current expenses.

This is part of the plan.  On June 27, 2021, I announced that we had to move towards a deficit budget because all of you have been giving money, and it’s sitting in the bank, and we were hesitant to spend it, thinking that we should always have a reserve.  But, we studied the healthiest churches out there, and found that they spend boldly on spiritual growth because they know that God will provide.

So, for the past three years, we have spent God’s money on spiritual growth and tried to hire the best people.  That has allowed us to enter a new springtime of spiritual growth, with beautiful Masses, incredible numbers in Alpha, Faith Studies, Life Groups, and Baptisms—this is great news!

In January of this year, the Parish Finance Council and I were nervous about how to maintain our funds.  Here’s more good news: We’re working on growing our ability to raise funds for this spiritual growth, but I also contacted some people who live across Canada and love our parish.  In fact, three years ago, they offered to pay for our Alpha position, but I declined because I knew we had to spend our own money first.  Anyway, when I told them that we’re now $200,000 over budget this year, you know what they said?  ‘We love what St. Anthony’s is doing, and we’re so happy you contacted us.  But, Fr. Justin, tell your people that you don’t just want to run a $200,000 deficit, but a $500,000 deficit!  You have to dream even bigger, Fr. Justin!  You have to trust more in God, and want more for people!’  They’re going to help us financially (not entirely, because we need to do our part) so that our spiritual growth continues.  We’ll also keep on spending wisely but we’re not cutting back on spiritual ministries, otherwise, we’ll sell our soul.

So, this is what Jesus is asking: Focus more on His power, trust in His promises, and be more spiritually bold.  We want to increase spiritual growth because everything we’re doing right now is worth it.

This leads us to tonight: We’re blessed to have six women and their nine children ask for Baptism after a yearlong journey.  We’ve never had an Easter like this, and we’ve never had fruitfulness like these past six months.  And more is coming in the next few weeks.  This is cause for incredible joy!  And now, let’s continue with the Baptisms so as to let God finish this homily with His power.

Some of us are experiencing the joy of Jesus’ Resurrection, some of us are starting to experience it, and some of us will experience it later.  When the time is right, our joy will be complete.  Happy Easter!

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