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And your Heart shall Rejoice: An Easter III Reflection

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy." Saint John 16:20

In our Gospel reading for the third Sunday after Easter, we learn about the temporary pain experienced over the death of Jesus by His Disciples. Fortunately, the sting they endured, because of their Master's death, turned into a state of sheer joy because of His subsequent Resurrection and Lasting Presence. They learned that the Cross and the resurrection reveals the true person of Jesus Christ and His ultimate mission.

Indeed, the Disciples' pain and confusion at Jesus's traumatic departure is contrasted with the relief, joy and sense of clarity that the Christian community experienced with His return, brief as it may have been. Jesus had already told His Disciples, at the Last Supper, about what was to happen after His death. But little did they realize that He was speaking on a very different level.

On the one hand, Jesus leaves them for a short time because of His forthcoming death, and yet on the other hand, and even more profoundly, some time later, Jesus returns in all His Glory to judge both the quick and the dead. Jesus told them that this would be a wonderful time when they would no longer need to pray or ask for intercession from God.

The Disciples, however, being human, were impatient for this time to come. And indeed, for the rest of us mortals, this period of waiting also seems rather long. The problem for people is that the 'time of waiting' is currently in the moment and it feels like forever. But when it comes to pass, then and only then, will we understand how quickly the time really went by.

Jesus wants us to embrace this period of waiting as a time of comfort as opposed to a time of concern. He is more or less saying, “I'll be back in a little while, don't worry, I promise I'll be back.” I believe that a little while' means that human life is relatively short in comparison to God's timeline, which is endless. Jesus wants us to understand that God's time is but a mere blip.

Understanding this reality is difficult, but it is important to know that God offers us a gift during this period of expectation. He offers up the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is with us in the midst of our struggles and He guides us on our earthly pilgrimage. So the difficulty of this waiting period is soothed by the knowledge and comfort of knowing that Jesus, through His Holy Spirit, is ever present, waiting to help us in our endeavour to become holy.

The Glory of God: Making us Fully Alive

As in the time of the Apostles, we live in a world where no one realistically gets through life without experiencing some kind of brokenness or pain. Nevertheless, with the help of the Holy Spirit, as our guide, we are transformed, we can now face a world that may very well be cold, empty and unfriendly. We begin to exist in a place where we participate for the benefit of others, as well as ourselves. With God's Spirit within us, we make the world a better place.

This new relationship with God brings about a new reality. We are introduced to a new world that is both real and genuine. By acknowledging and accepting this covenant we make our mark in the world and we become fully alive. By embracing the Glory of God, our sins are washed away, releasing our pain and brokenness.

We are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and the emotions of joy and thanksgiving burst out of us, as we await our eternal reward. We are enriched by our new faith. We have a deep sense of belonging to the Divine. We are one with God. We free ourselves from a world that views us as less than unique and more as consumers to be used.

In God, we find ourselves. We have abundant life. In God, with the help of His Holy Spirit, we are working towards unity with Him, the One who is the very heart and soul of our existence. And it is through Christ, as our model, that we are taught how to be whole and loving as we journey toward God. We are no longer empty vessels, but truly human and fully alive. As St. Irenaeus tells us, “The glory of God is the human being fully alive.”

Saint Peter's Exhortation

A great benefit of our faith in Christ is that we are able to no longer be slaves to a sinful world. As a matter of fact, it is God's Will that we do good. Doing such good will lead us to the joy and freedom that we so much desire. However, with that new reality comes a great responsibility.

That responsibility, or obligation, is to live as faithful moral servants of God. Indeed, our Christian duty will guide us on the correct path to righteousness. And as we learn from the Epistle, Saint Peter tells us, “ for so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as freemen, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness; but as the servants of God.” 1 Peter 2:15

Indeed, our duties are to honour all people and love everyone. It must even be noted that if we wish to honour God, we should also be respectful of civil authority. That could be seen as a difficult task these days, but it should be remembered that our victory lies in the fact that our 'righteous living' spiritually empowers us in the presence of those who would seemingly mock or persecute us. This Grace, given to us by God, lasts as long as we live a life as faithful and holy Christians.

In the Collect for this Sunday, we learn that there is always the opportunity for everyone, even the morally corrupt, to return to the ways of righteousness; as long as they forsake the sins of the past and, with help of the Holy Spirit, follow a new path becoming part of the Fellowship of Jesus Christ; ever moving onward towards our loving God, our heavenly Father.

I am also reminded what Father R.F. Palmer teaches us in his book, Psalms Then and Now regarding the Gradual for this Sunday. In verse eight we read, “He holdeth our soul in life” (Ps. 66: 8). Father Palmer is reminding us that it is our Lord who “brings us with Himself to a glorious resurrection in the land of liberty, the heavenly country.” (page 141)

Brothers and Sisters, it is when we freely take this new path that our sorrows will be turned into joy. Indeed, our waiting is over. With the help of the Holy Spirit we have endured. We are liberated from this world. We are truly and fully alive. And as servants of God, we have made it home to the Father.

“And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” Saint John 16:22

Published on April 15th, 2019 in The Traditional Anglican News Volume 7 Issue 4 {Revised on March 1st,2023}

© Dr. Charles Warner 2023

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