Bishop Hying

Resurrection narratives show joy which flows from Risen Christ

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on May 12, 2019


     The Resurrection narratives in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles give abundant testimony to the joy and peace which flow from the Risen Christ to his followers. The shocking relief that the Lord is back from the dead, victorious over the power of sin, transforms the lives of his friends. These disciples spend the rest of their lives spreading the Good News, sharing the fruits of the Holy Spirit and living the life of love and grace which has become tangible in the Church.
     I wish that Easter joy and peace to all of you in this magnificent season of new life! The mercy freely given, the forgiveness gratefully embraced and the promise of eternal life which changes everything flow to us in the gracious torrent of love from the Sacred Heart of the Risen Christ. No sin, obstacle, setback or suffering can ultimately defeat us because we have read the Book of Revelation and we know that the Lord has gained the victory.
     This conviction of faith offers us a joy that can only come from heaven itself - the blessed assurance that, if we are faithful to God in this life, we will live forever united with him in a love and peace which we cannot even imagine.
Because we are not in heaven yet, we can easily let the difficulties and challenges of this life rob us of that joy and peace. The death of loved ones, unexpected suffering, family conflicts and harsh poverty can evaporate our tranquility and equilibrium. The world will break our hearts sooner or later, but as we work through the grief, the power of the Risen Christ is the only force of grace that can sustain us through the shadow of death.
     We all face big tragedies, but I find it is often the daily annoyances and smaller challenges that grind me down and empty out my joy bucket. We all probably have individuals in our lives who are consistently negative, complain much, never seem happy and just vacuum the life and joy out of us.
      Maybe you live or work with such a person. Maybe an individual who volunteers with you at church is always a downer. These relationships are difficult at best and can often devolve into conflict. I find that people with toxic or negative personalities are deeply wounded and inflict their pain in destructive fashion on those around them. We try to love such folks, but they only change and heal with great effort and much time.
      I want to spend my brief time here on earth living in hope, working on the building of the Kingdom, hanging out with people who build each other up, not tear each other down, who look for the good in the bad instead of the bad in the good, who do not complain about everything and everybody. In short, they are brothers and sisters of joy and peace.
Can it ever be wrong to limit the depressing negativity and toxic poison of our culture, not letting the darkness seep through the windows of our souls? Is it bad to step away from relationships which diminish our self-esteem, crush our spirits and leave us feeling worthless and hopeless?
      I am not advocating that we embrace a naïve, smiling optimism that never admits problems, is unafraid to deal with conflict and cannot handle criticism. We need to be realistic in facing the complexity of the many challenges confronting us as Christians and Americans as well as navigating our family, friend and work relationships. We must always do what we can to find solutions, listen to opposing viewpoints and compromise where possible. Believing in Christ does not mean we deny reality.
I am growing in my conviction, however, that sometimes we just need to walk away from toxic situations which defy solution and healing. When we can honestly say to ourselves that we have tried everything in our power to fix a relationship, solve a dilemma, find a workable compromise and nothing is working because an entrenched negative person does not truly want anything to work, it is time to heed Jesus’ advice, shake the dust from our feet and move on.
      To risk our physical and mental health, to be emptied out of peace and joy because we are trying to make the dysfunctional healthy without results, makes it time to surrender and reconnect with life, tranquility and happiness.
One reason why I do not watch television, especially the news, is the same reason why I do not read anonymous letters. I do not want to fill my mind and heart with somebody else’s toxic rage and endless negativity. To bring attention to a problem in order to seek dialogue and problem-solve together is one thing. To simply spread pessimism and criticism without wanting resolution is another.
      Some of the name-calling, gossip, anger and nastiness that can go on in Church circles between Christians that should know better is truly astonishing and depressing at times. I fear that the culture of rage, entitlement and narcissism that afflicts our society has seeped into parts of the Church in toxic and destructive ways.
Left to our own devices, most of us would be joyful and peaceful just about all of the time!
      Especially in these weeks of Easter, do not take ownership of someone else’s anger and negativity. Do not internalize it. Do not make it yours. You do not have to carry it. Love everyone. Forgive everyone. But move on if a particular situation is destroying you.
      Jesus wants us to live the peace and joy which flow from the amazing power of the Resurrection right here and now. I do not want to waste one drop of that divine abundance on gloomy sadness, unresolved rage, enervating self-pity and petty quarrels which mean nothing in the end.
      Bring on the Kingdom!

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