2018-04_LT-JOYEaster

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It’s early in the morning and you are sound asleep. All of a sudden, that alarm you set last night starts screaming at you: WAKE UP!

The alarm sounds like more than just a pesky, beeping phone clock — it sounds like a bomb is about to erupt, or maybe like one of those obnoxious fire alarms from your school. Beep! Beep! Beep! Again, and again, and again.

Naturally, flight or fight kicks in, and you furiously and desperately try to hit the snooze button. “Not now,” you say to yourself. “Just a few more precious minutes… then, I’ll be ready.”

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The second alarm goes off a minute later. You squirm around your bed in frustration and slap to turn off the alarm, but this time you were too aggressive and knocked the phone off of your bedside table. The alarm is going off louder than ever and you can’t reach it on the floor. Beep! Beep! Beep! “What did I do to deserve this?

You have no energy so you roll off of your bed, fall onto the floor, grab your phone, and turn off the alarm.

Now you’re laying on the floor in silence, trying to keep your eyes closed but you just can’t help but open them. The alarm did it. You’re awake for good and there is no way you could fall back asleep.

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Have you had a similar experience with your own alarm clock? Alarms are really tough to listen to in the morning, but they are super important because they help us get up and ready for the day on time. Without an alarm in the morning, some of us, myself included, might not get up at a reasonable time at all.

Lent is a lot like an alarm. Every year, as the Lenten season approaches, it becomes more difficult think about and prepare to face the sacrifices that will take place during this season. Ugh, no meat on Fridays again

It is tough to face the Lenten season, just as it is tough to face the sound of an alarm in the morning, but we must rise to the challenge of this season and use this time to truly discern how God wants us to live a greater life more united to Him. We must join Him in taking up the cross we are given in our daily lives.

The best part about Lent is that we know what happens next — the joy of Easter when Christ rises from the dead and we rise with Him! Lent prepares us to live intentionally in the spirit of joy during the Easter season.

Here’s how I like to live in the spirit of joy during Easter or anytime:

  1. Jesus
  2. Others
  3. Yourself

Jesus First

Living in a spirit of joy means you’re always putting Jesus first in your life. It means you prioritize your prayer and relationship with Jesus above everything else.

Some simple ways to do this might be to structure it into your day: Bible before breakfast or Bible before bed (see number 5 in this blog for more). For example, a great way to do this that a mentor of mine taught me, is to sit down every morning and Google search the “Catholic Church Daily Scripture Readings”. Then, when I had the readings in front of me I would read through them, prayerfully, and write down on a piece of paper the part of the reading that stuck out to me when I read it. Then, I would carry that reading with me throughout my day and it would guide me and help me through my day.

Living with Jesus as the first priority in our lives helps us recognize that we can always have hope in Christ, even when when we face struggles in our daily lives. With Christ first, we remember to pick up our cross and have hope that we will rise from those struggles with Him. When we put Christ first, we become more brave, more confident, more merciful to others, and ultimately more joyful!

Others Second

It is natural to put others second if you seek Jesus first because you’ll want to share the joy you’ve received from Him with them. Pope Francis speaks about this in his Apostolic Exhortation titled, “The Joy of the Gospel.” He says that this joy we receive in the Gospel and of putting Jesus first in our lives is “a joy ever new, a joy which is shared.” When we put others second we help spread the joy of the Gospel that Pope Francis talks about.

“You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy!” (Isaiah 9:3)

You put others second by being kind and serving them throughout your day. It doesn’t need to be complicated — it’s simply a matter of putting the needs of others before your own. If people notice and ask why you’re being so kind, you can tell them it’s because you put Jesus first in your life.

Some examples of simple acts of kindness are: Smiling at people you walk pass during your day, opening the door for others, or sitting with someone who is alone at lunch or on the bus.

Yourself Third

Don’t forget take joy in yourself and the person God has created and called you to be. It can seem depressing when you read, “yourself third,” and see that you are last on the list, but when we read this Scripture verse from Matthew 20:16, we see there is much to be joyful about: “The last will be first, and the first will be last.” When we love Jesus and others before ourselves, we become free to love as we were created to.

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Even if Lent felt like a pesky alarm giving you a wake-up call, I hope it prepared you to live intentionally in a spirit of joy this Easter season. So next year and every year to come, when you face the season of Lent, I pray that you can view it this way and get excited for the anticipation of the Easter season when Christ is risen and he has conquered death! That is pretty amazing and is definitely something to be joyful about!

Jesus, others, yourself.

Christ is Risen! Rise up and be joyful!

About the Author

Nick Longo

Nick Longo is a youth minister and recent transplant to the Pacific Northwest from Syracuse, New York (go Orange!). On those rare occasions when he's not hanging out with his wife, Christina, or trading his Vineyard Vines for vintage flannel, Nick is running This Catholic Life, a ministry on a mission to evangelize the world through the power of social media. Connect with Nick on Twitter and Instagram @nick_j_longo.