Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1943.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Forty Days of Eastertide are days of thanksgiving. The Forty Days of Lent were days of repentance. Thanksgiving must always follow repentance.
Thanksgiving is the penitent's act of faith in the promises of God. A true penitent is a thankful penitent. A thankful penitent is a believing penitent. Repentance and faith are gifts of the Holy Ghost.
Like all other gifts of God, they must be carefully cultivated in order that they may, in due season, bring forth fruit with patience. Repentance and Faith must be kept in true balance; else what began in repentance would end in remorse, and what began in faith would end in presumptiousness.
So, if we would rightly use the Forty Days of Eastertide we must diligently cultivate joy in believing. Saint Paul wrote to his Philippian Christians, "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice."
We must remember that Christian joy is a supernatural joy. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. It is not dependent upon natural temperament, disposition, environment or upon the natural senses in any way. At its best it is to be observed in the most unlikely persons, and sometimes in the last places where you would expect to find it. But it is unmistakable, and we are told by those who have discernment and experience in such matters that spiritual joy is one of the tests of sainthood.
I suppose that every one of us can recall to memory examples of heroic Christian joy, triumphant over pain or some other kind of adversity. Not always proved by an intense, short and searching ordeal, though this is the climax of a hidden preliminary training. It is found in so many who have had this hidden training without any dramatic demonstration visible to human eyes. The only outward signs seemed to indicate heroic endurance of the common tribulations of every day life.
If we have known such people confidentially we have been impressed with their heroism. We have wondered at their self-effacing ability to rejoice with those who rejoice, as well as to weep with those who weep. We may have wondered all the more when we remembered that the same person who could so wholeheartedly sympathize with the joys of others probably had need of aid and comfort deferred or denied at the moment.
It is a refreshing exercise in the Forty Days of Eastertide to read the Gospel records of the disciples and to observe their experiences with the Risen Lord. Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, Mary the Mother of James and Salome. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The eleven gathered together in Jerusalem, and them that were with them. And Thomas.
Today the Gospel takes us to the "evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled together for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when He had so said, He shewed unto them His hands and His side. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost! Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained."
We take our places with this company of believers. The Communion of Saints makes us one with them. We listen with them to the words of Our Lord. We are glad with them and rejoice with them in His glorious Resurrection. We believe that He has taken away the sin of the world; that by His death He hath destroyed death, and by His rising to life again hath restored to us everlasting life.
Like the first disciples we resume our ordinary life. Perhaps we face difficulties and burdens. Be that as it may, our sorrow has been turned into joy. We have a song in our hearts. "The Lord is risen indeed: O come, let us adore Him. Alleluia."
Affectionately in Our Lord,