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Pascha: The Formula for Joy (2015 Reflection from Bishop John)

by Bishop John, The Word, April 2015

As I write this Paschal message, I sit before a seven-foot snow drift. It's not easy to imagine the Easter flowers pushing through the earth to greet the spring sun, when the earth is covered with such piles of snow. It's seven degrees now, but I know that, as Lent trudges on, even with another six inches of snow forecast for this week, Pascha is on the way. How do I know that spring is coming? Was it my mother who told me that spring follows winter during those long days inside the house, or was it something I learned in school? Perhaps it was many years living and noticing that each year Pascha followed Lent. In any case, we prepare for Pascha with great anticipation, especially after a record-breaking winter.

What I really want to talk about today is becoming comfortable with the seasons of our lives and recognizing God's presence and love in each of these seasons. Each has its own challenges and blessings. Let's rise to the challenges and rejoice in the blessings. After all, this is the day that the Lord has made for us. After all, we were born for Pascha, and all of life and all the gifts are to help us embrace this reality of union with God. is is true whether we are just learning to drive or are experiencing the aches of the rusty years.

The enemy of joy in every season of our lives is unreasonable expectations. Where do these expectations come from? Some who study human development believe that during the earliest days of our lives we begin to frame in our minds how the world works and what we feel about it. We imagine what it will be like to be older, an adult, married, a parent, or a retiree. We imagine how it will feel to sit at the end of the table and lead our families, what it will feel like to be successful. What information does a five- or six-year-old have to make such judgments? He has his own perceptions of the families around him – and television. What a scary thought! Could it be that our ideas of success as adults come from a five-year-old's perceptions of happiness? I believe so. Now couple this with modern notions that happiness (and not simply the pursuit of happiness) is an inalienable right, and that happiness is egocentric and carnal, and we have a recipe for disaster.

Repent! Don't let the five-year-old part of you that controls feeling steal away your Pascha, your family, your union with God, your very salvation. Repent! Don't let your feelings, which are fleeting and temporary, take over your judgment, commitment and knowledge of right and wrong. Repent! Use your godly relationships and good mind to help you through the developmental struggles that every healthy relationship goes through.

During Lent, St. Basil calls us to pray for those who are confused in their relationships with God, those who are tempted by others, those who are oppressed, those who struggle financially, those who are away from home and vulnerable, those who mourn, those who are fainthearted, those who are imprisoned and those who are wounded. During Lent we intensify our prayer so that we can support each other and re-focus on our goals. The goal of our life should be what we are created for, and again, we are created for union with God and each other. Our lives are not just our own. We are social creatures who belong to families and parishes that count on us. We belong to networks of people that God uses to reveal Himself.

Be strong and keep the struggle going as you deal with the tail-end of winter, the cold, or, in some cases, unseasonable warmth. No matter what you face, continue your journey to Pascha. Acknowledge the season of your life, and identify its struggles and challenges. Be deliberate about seeking God's will and being a Christian of integrity. As you prepare for Pascha and meet the Risen Lord, dedicate yourself to God, your family and your Church.

Dedicated to God, family and Church, we can proclaim together the victory of Christ: Christ is Risen indeed!