Today we bring to a close the Easter Octave. Perhaps many don’t realize that the Church celebrates Easter Day for eight days. It is such an important event that one day is not enough, so for eight days in the prayers of the Church it is Easter Day.
We certainly celebrate with great joy the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death and all the forces of darkness. But also we celebrate the fact that we also will rise from the dead in him, and we also will live where death and darkness can no longer touch us. As St. John wrote in the Book of Revelation: “God himself will be with them;*4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more…” In the second reading this morning, St. Peter wrote:“by his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
This is good news for us! And God asks us to find joy in this Good News because it gives us hope and meaning for our lives. But this good news is not only for us. Pope Francis in his Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel” tells us that we must be Evangelizers. He says that we need to be ready to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to bring the light of the Good News to wherever it is needed.
Each of our parishes needs to be an evangelizing community. We, as Catholics need to be evangelizing people. Pope Francis wrote: “I dream of a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”
That means that we as Knights need to open ourselves to this “missionary impulse” that the Pope speaks about. We have to let that missionary impulse push us to look at our customs, our ways of doing things, our activities and projects, the way we see ourselves as Knights.
And we need to ask “Is what we do as Knights directed towards the evangelization of todays world or are all our efforts directed towards our own self-preservation?” Do we evangelize or do we just look for new recruits? Perhaps if we are able to become true evangelizers, bringing the light of the Good News of our faith to everyone around us, we might find that we will have all the new members we need.
What Pope Francis also points out, and which I think is very important, is that God calls us to tell this good news to others with joy. Pope Francis says that “there are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.” (EG 6) We’re not to be like that! Pope Francis also says that we Christians should not always look like we are coming back from a funeral. And he also said that when we walk around with a face like a pickled pepper we are not doing anyone any good. In other words, the Church does not need sourpusses. The Christian is a person of joy and we need to be seen as people who carry this joy continually in our lives.
Evangelization is somewhat of a new word for Catholics. We are not sure of how to go about it. But we can learn! Perhaps the first step will simply be to let people see the brightness and joy that are in our lives because of our faith in Jesus Christ.
What we heard in the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, I believe, can be of great encouragement to us. St. Luke wrote: “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread in various houses and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
So perhaps our first step in all of this is found in what we do day by day. Why don’t we try to be aware of the real joy and hope that is in our lives because of our faith in our Risen Lord. And then try to share that joy with those around us. Then we are becoming evangelizers and after a while we may perhaps find that we are no longer growing smaller but find that, day by day, the Lord will cause us to grow.
Today the church Canonizes Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, declaring them to be Saints and encouraging us to ask their prayers for us before God. These two saints were truly witnesses to the world of the Good News of Jesus our Lord.
Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II, pray for us that may find the courage to make know to everyone around us the Good News of God’s love for them and so be joyful evangelizers of Jesus, the risen Lord.