It is the Easter Season, Lent is over, and somehow we are now supposed to be "happy" since during Lent we were "somber" or at least introspective and penitent, which is not usually described by a happy face emoticon.
Liturgical seasons prompt us to cycle through the various religious affections and, as it were, get in some exercise for them all lest we stay too long in one place. I have written about that before (here) and I absolutely believe it and am glad that such is the liturgical life of the Christian.
But I admit that the Easter joy is harder to sustain than the Lenten introspection and thoughtfulness. For one thing, the news continues to be sobering. Poland has lost its president and his wife and most of the country's leaders, including religious leaders, in a plane crash. A terrible mining accident in West Virginia, again. Really awful stories about the Roman Catholic Church. Ugly national politics. Et cetera. There is reason to feel less than joyful in the face of these things.
But we are called to be joyful in the Lord. We are called to remember that we belong to God and what a truly fabulous thing that is. We are called, in addition to keeping up with the news, to keep up with the Good News, too, to look for the signs of human beings fully alive, which is the Glory of God, at least according to St Irenaeus. Even for an optimist like me, I admit that it can be hard work to look for abundant life in the midst of the evidence of so much pain and tragedy around us. And I don't believe for one minute that we are called to ignore the tragedy. But we do need to sift through the wreckage and look for signs of life.
Some days, this requires a dose of The Onion, The New Yorker's Shouts and Murmurs, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, South Park or some other overt silliness in print or on TV, all of which my children quote freely (well, except for the New Yorker, which we have to read to our children) and none of which I am linking to because the F-word probably will show up on the very first page. If you're an adult and know how to use Google, you can find them.
On my better days, though, I just unplug and go outside and feel the sunshine, watch the bees or smell the flowers, or watch the cat chase her tail, and I call a friend or get together with someone for lunch or "coffee" (I don't actually drink coffee, but this is what non-meal get-togethers at non-restaurants are called). I interact with people face to face if possible and I have face time with the birds and bees and flowers and trees and the moon up above.....
The world is a beautiful and broken place. The sun shines on the just and the unjust. Matthew 5:45 says this is God's own doing. We are called to see the beauty and praise the God who made it and to love the neighbor who cuts you off in traffic, to build up the community and be willing to follow Christ to the cross if necessary. In other words, we are to life a full life that includes joy and sorrow and hard work and pleasure/leisure. Not in a "don't worry, be happy" kind of way but in a "this is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it" kind of way.
It feels to me as if happiness is the hard work part of life and yet at the same time, happiness is just letting go and letting things be and breathing in the cool evening air and feeling the sun on my skin and looking at the Milky Way from a quiet spot on the beach. Like the t-shirt says, Life is Good. I don't know why it's such hard work to just let go and be. But Easter is a time to practice just that.